Home to Penn State University and the world’s largest dues-paying Alumni Association in the World, State College is a destination that offers cultural attractions, outdoor activities, and events for the entire family. History buffs will fall in love with the city's historic sites within the Bellefonte Historic District and world-class museums like the Palmer Museum of Art. Every visitor should take the opportunity to visit State College’s Main Street, which features a variety of shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and more.
The Central PA 4th Fest has been a go-to Independence Day celebration since it’s inception in 2001, and it will take place July 4 at the Bryce Jordan Center, on the Penn State campus. The activities kick off with the Firecracker 4K/4 Mile Races, which are open to runners of all ages and skill levels. After the races, the America’s Got Heroes Parade takes center stage and will feature patriotic floats, entertainers, music, and more. The parade gives way to the main festival that includes BMX shows, kids crafts, chainsaw carving demos, roller derby performances, and more. Attendees will also find plenty of food options in the vendor area, and musicians representing a variety of genres will perform live. The day closes with one of the largest fireworks shows in America, featuring more than 10,000 pyrotechnic shells, music choreography, and even a VIP viewing area. We got the opportunity to interview Karl Libhart, Executive Director of the Central PA 4th Fest, to learn more about this Independence Day celebration.
RAL: How long has the event been running?
KL: There have been fireworks in State College since 1927, but the current organization (Central Pennsylvania July 4th, Inc.) was founded in 2001.
RAL: How many annual participants do you draw?
KL: We have drawn as many as an estimated 80,000 people. With the 4th of July taking place on a mid-week this year, we expect about 60,000.
RAL: What demographic does your event attract? Children? Families? Couples?
KL: We are a family-friendly event and draw people from across a broad demographic spectrum. We have activities for toddlers to senior citizens.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
KL: We are the largest all-volunteer fireworks display in the country. We host a daylong celebration that's run entirely by as many as 600 volunteers.
RAL: Take me through the activities of a day at the event.
KL: You can see our full day's schedule at 4thfest.org, but here's a summary:
9:00 am - Firecracker Fun Runs (4K and 4-Mile courses)
12:00 pm - America's Got Heroes Ceremony
2:00 pm - America's Got Heroes Parade
4:00 pm - Live Music on Three Stages, Chainsaw Wood Carving, Roller Derby, BMX Bike Demonstrations
4:00 pm - Free Hot Dogs for 4,000
5:00 pm - Free American Flag Birthday Cake
6:00 pm - Quilts of Valor Ceremony
6:30 pm - Featured Music Act Adley Stump
9:15 pm - Fireworks
RAL: Will there be any guest appearances?
KL: Yes, our live music performers including Adley Stump, The Big Jangle, Polkadelphia, The Dixie Kings, Velveeta, Jackie Brown and the Gill Street Band, Ramalama, and Tommy Wareham.
RAL: What will attendees find for dining options?
KL: We will have some great carnival food vendors.
RAL: What is the atmosphere of the event like?
KL: A patriotic, family-oriented celebration of our nation's birthday.
RAL: What does the event mean to the community?
KL: 4thFest brings more than 30,000 out-of-town guests to State College and Penn State. Most of our activities are self-contained, but we estimate we fill a minimum of 4,000 hotel rooms. Our parade starts in downtown State College and gives a reason for the local restaurant and retail businesses to be open on Independence Day.
RAL: Why should people come?
KL: We offer a full day of family fun with a patriotic spin that can be enjoyed free of charge. We do offer things for sale, but you can hang out all day with your family for free. We're recognized as one of the best fireworks displays in the country.
For more information about the Central PA 4th Fest, please visit the event website.