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PHILADELPHIA — Two weeks removed from the Budweiser Made in America Festival, Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway looked vastly different as workers made a major overhaul in preparation for Pope Francis’ visit for the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which officially kicked off Tuesday.
Along the parkway, which is closed to traffic from the Philadelphia Museum of Art to Logan Square, people are at work building large jumbotrons, risers and stages.
“This site we’ve been working on since last Wednesday,” said Joe Rossano, who was working at Eakins Oval.
Rossano was one of dozens putting together everything going up around the oval, including the press risers, jumbotrons and the stage Pope Francis will celebrate a Mass Sunday.
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“It’s a step up from Made in America, just because of all the video and walls all the way down Center City,” he said.
Nicely lined up along the streets of the parkway are fences, endless stacks of bottles of water, generators with lights, video screens, poles and more.
For Rossano, the enormity of the pope’s visit is no big deal.
“It’s just a regular day at work,” he said.
Andrew Sadler, of Greenlee Security, was also at Eakins Oval, but for a very different reason.
He was there around all the construction not out of curiosity, but instead to keep those who are curious at a safe distance.
“I’m basically a director of the public, keeping people safe because there are a lot of heavy equipment out here and they’re cutting down trees to make the area look hospitable for the pope and the people who are coming,” he said. “My job is to make sure people are aware of what is going on for their safety and for our safety.”
It has been a tougher job than usual for Sadler.
For something as high profile as the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit, Sadler has had to deal with some snoopers who are trying to get a better look at the incomplete stage.
“I’ve seen a few guys walk up, see me standing here and try to walk around like I’m not going to see,” he said. “Some people will have a smooth walk, like they’re walking real fast.”
Though typically no one should be getting through the Eakins Oval area, Sadler does allow a quick photo or two at a safe distance from the work.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about safety,” he said. “Being a human being myself, I would even like some nice photos of this area, too. I would just like to treat people how I would like to be treated myself.”
The Greenlee Security team will be on hand during all the festivities along the parkway over the weekend as well.
“We’re waiting on further directions on how to make people aware of where they go when they have their ticket, how to check-in and where to sit,” Sadler said. “All that information is coming. We just take it day-by-day. No day is ever the same.”
Even though it’s a job for Sadler, he’s excited at the chance to be a part of the entire World Meeting of Families experience.
“Everyone is just wide-eyed,” he said. “It’s a great experience and it’s an opportunity I’m glad I’m not missing.”