Hero Thrill Show® Pep Rally previews upcoming show and is a rolling success in Center City

Weight Watchers President John Birnhak named as the 2019 Grand Marshal..

PHILADELPHIA, PA (September 4, 2019, 5:50 p.m.) – It was a show of support and old-fashioned block-party fun at the Hero Thrill Show® Pep Rally in Center City at a noon ceremony today (Wednesday, September 4) when the finest from the Philadelphia Police and Fire Department departments were on display to the community. The Pep Rally served as preview of the upcoming Sept. 14th Thrill Show in South Philadelphia.

The event was hosted by Hero Thrill Show®, Inc. President/CEO James “Jimmy” Binns, who is an attorney, Deputy Chief of the Darby Township Police Department, a certified instructor of police motorcycle operators and patron of police and fire personnel. Binns led an all-star lineup in a special day of tribute and tradition. A lunchtime crowd of 600 were in attendance to informally catch a sneak preview and all of the action from their sidewalk perches on Market Street.                                                         

“The Hero Thrill Show® has been a proud tradition in our community for 65 years,” said Binns. “The heroic responses by our first responders to the ongoing violence like the police shooting in Nicetown-Tioga on August 14 in our region and across the nation daily is a reminder of how brave and valuable our protectors of peace truly are. It is our duty to perpetuate the legacy of our fallen police officers and firefighters who placed themselves in harm’s way to safeguard the citizens of Philadelphia. The Hero Thrill Show gives us a chance to honor their memory and extend our gratitude to the families of those brave men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty.”

The elite Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill were one of the showcases performing a few laps around Market street, from 18th to 19th streets, in a grand motorcade procession compete with sirens and roaring engines. Philadelphia Fire Department Fire engine 43/Ladder 9, with a huge ladder unfurling a giant U.S. flag, were featured as part of the festivities. The Police Mounted Unit, Homeland Security,  S.W.A.T. vehicles and personnel were on hand. The Phillies Phanatic also kept things loose and set the stage in a day of speeches, antics, community engagement and show-stopping displays.                                                  

The Pep Rally built momentum for the big 65th annual Hero Thrill Show® fundraiser, Saturday, September 14 at noon at the Wells Fargo Center parking lot in South Philadelphia. Kids and the young at heart will have an opportunity to be unofficial firefighters and police officers for a day, while enjoying the sights and sounds of carnival games, boardwalk food and legendary throw-back music from the 1970s.

The 2019 Hero Thrill Show® raises funds from ticket sales and donations for the post- high school educations of survivors of police officers and firefighters who were killed in the line of duty. The Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team will be back with an impressive display of fire engines from units citywide from the Philadelphia  Fire Department.

The September 14th event outside of the Wells Fargo Center will begin in a spectacular fashion, with the motorcycle procession of Hero Thrill Show participants led by the heralded Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team, which performs exclusively at the Thrill Show once a year. The motorcade will be led by fire engines from the Philadelphia Fire Department and City Representative Sheila Hess in a side car followed by uniformed motorcycle officers from throughout the Delaware Valley.

“I remember from the time I was young girl, how the Hero Thrill Show® was such a major spectacle in our community when it came to South Philly,” said City Representative Hess. “At one time, it was held at the old JFK Stadium. The daredevil police motorcycles used to come thundering down the middle aisles that separated those rickety old bleacher benches. The show has been a fun source of entertainment for many kids and adults for generations.”

City officials from the law-enforcement and firefighting communities, as well as sports cheerleaders and mascots, will be part of the festivities. With the backdrop of the Philadelphia Color Guard (combined color guards of the Police-Fire-Sheriff’s Office and Police Explorers color guards) of 17 members, the kickoff will begin with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem by Alberta Taliaferro, of Delaware County.

A kickoff program at noon will open the day-long fun activities, as the boardwalk comes to South Philly for a day of thrills including demonstrations and daredevil maneuvers, which will begin at 1 p.m., and continue throughout the action-packed afternoon.

The formal kickoff will feature remarks by City of Philadelphia officials and the introduction of the Hero Thrill Show’s 2019 Grand Marshal John Birnhak, President of Weight Watchers of Philadelphia, Inc. and community champion. Through the efforts of the local Weight Watchers, founded by Birnhak’s entrepreneurial parents — Marilyn and J. Robert Birnhak — the Thrill Show has received nearly $290,000 for educational funding. Donations are made annually as a result of the spirited Philadelphia Police and Fire departments’ Battle of the Badges Competition, which promotes healthy living.              

Weight Watchers will donate its latest contribution of $10,000 to the Thrill Show®. In 33 years, more than 200,000 pounds have been lost by police officers and firefighters participating in the weight-reduction program. Celebrating its 55th year, Weight Watchers of Philadelphia is one of the nation’s largest continuous family-owned franchises, serving up to 20,0000 members in Southeastern Pa. and South Jersey.

John Birnhak, 62, who grew up in Mt. Airy and later Cheltenham sections of the city, comes from a family of philanthropists. He is known as a passionate businessman. He is on the board of the Madilyn and Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales and is active in the Wissahickon Police and Fire units. Earning degrees in finance from the University of Miami and La Salle University, he joined Weight Watchers as executive vice president in 1983. Birnhak has a deep connection watching the Thrill Show over the years when it featured stars like Soupy Sales, Don Johnson, Mary Hart, Suzette Charles and Corbin Bersen.

“It is a cherished honor to be part of the Hero Thrill Show, especially as its 2019 Grand Marshal,” Birnhak said. “The Thrill Show® and Weight Watchers have always been compatible partners with a great deal in common. We both value community, tradition and family.”

Joining Binns and Grand Marshal Birnhak in the kickoff program will be: Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel; Interim Police Commissioner Christine Coulter; boxing announcer Nino “The Voice” DelBuono; youth sports organizer and radio host Sonny Hill; Bob Pantano, of WOGL FM;  Philadelphia Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team; Police K-9 unit; Police Mounted Unit and local professional mascots including the Phillies Phanatic — as well as dance teams from your favorite professional Philly sports teams. Former and current Thrill Show beneficiaries and their families will be acknowledged at the kickoff.

In addition to a stellar lineup, the show will showcase carnival games, rides on fire trucks, a front seat in a stationary police helicopter; fire-rescue exercises on a huge fire engine ladder truck and The Bob Pantano Dance Party featuring music from the Sound of Philadelphia.

The Police Highway Patrol Motorcycle Drill Team, K-9 Units from Delaware Valley-area police departments will perform throughout the day. Kids can learn about the various functions of Homeland Security/ S.W.AT. and engage with equipment, displays of crime-fighting equipment by the Aviation Unit, Bomb Squad, the Crime Scene Investigation Unit, the Marine Unit, Firearms Instructors, Police Academy and an appearance by the young Fire Explorers cadets in training. Fans can sit behind the wheel of police-rescue helicopters, meet fire personnel, try on gear and take front-seat rides on fire engines. Audiences will be impressed by performances showcasing fire apparatus and safety displays and demonstrations by the Philadelphia Fire Department’s Special Operations Units and a live fire-suppression exhibition.  Firefighters will perform in the “Firefighter Challenge,” a rescue exercise testing the strength and skills including reclining down ropes, moving through burning objects.

The Hero Thrill Show’s Jimmy Binns said that all the activities recognize the heroism of our firefighters and police officers who sacrificed their lives for their communities. As a patron of law enforcement, Binns is founder of the Hero Cop Plaque and Hero Firefighters Plague programs throughout the Delaware Valley as well as various initiatives to secure funding for police equipment and vehicles in the Delaware Valley.

The students are furthering their educations through the assistance of full funding at mostly local colleges, universities and trade schools. Thousands of dollars have been raised for the educations of more than 20 students from police and fire department families since the Hero Thrill Show was incorporated under Binns’ leadership in 2006. Hero Thrill Show tickets are $10 for single purchase, $25 for families (5 tickets, half price). Tickets are available at local police stations/firehouses citywide, or visit



THE MISSION OF THE HERO THRILL SHOW® IS TO PAY FOR THE COLLEGE TUITION OF CHILDREN OF PHILADELPHIA POLICE OFFICERS AND/OR FIREFIGHTERS KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY. The Hero Thrill Show® Inc. is the only organization that pays for the college tuition of the children of Police Officers and/or Firefighters who have been killed in the line of duty.  The Hero Thrill Show® is NOT affiliated with the Hero Scholarship Fund.