By Joyce Duriga
PHILADELPHIA — The “People’s Pope” won’t be able to see many people from the stage when he attends the Festival of Families Saturday and celebrates Mass Sunday on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in downtown Philadelphia.
More than 1.5 million people are expected to attend the events, which mark the official end of the World Meeting of Families, but because of obstructed viewing only about 2,000 or so will be able to actually see the stage from where they are sitting. Everyone else will view the events on Jumbotrons, and that includes those with coveted tickets.
The lucky people sitting in the white, wooden chairs in the area in front of the stage will have a clear view of the stage, as will the media on risers behind them. After that only the top of the stage is viewable from most of the parkway.
The stage is set up between Eakins Oval and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Beautiful trees line the parkway from the oval to 20th Street where the ticketed area ends but those trees also make for limiting viewing.
Organizers assure everyone they will be able to view the events on many Jumbotrons set up along the 1.1 mile-area set up for the events. But people hoping for unobstructed viewing like that at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 or Toronto in 2002 will be disappointed.
Those in the non-ticketed areas will be able to see the top of the stage as well but won’t be able to see much more except on the Jumbotrons. The non-ticketed viewing areas are also limited to the sides of the parkway — like it was for Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1979 — so the popemobile can make its way through the parkway for the parade.
People coming to Philadelphia from out of town and from the city itself hoping to see Pope Francis in the flesh will be able to see him during a parade up the parkway on each day.
Other than that, well, there are always the Jumbotrons.