Central PA 4th Fest will fill Happy Valley with fireworks, music and fun

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Bernie Keisling has his own Big Bang Theory -- if you make a big enough pyrotechnic bang, people will come in droves.

As executive director of Central PA 4th Fest, he leads a celebration on Thursday that annually attracts 60,000 to 80,000 people to Penn State and culminates with a 45-minute fireworks display powered by nearly 12,000 shells, filling Happy Valley with a kaleidoscope of color.

The display has earned national attention, including a No. 4 ranking among the world’s best fireworks shows by The Travel Channel and Discovery.com. Some of the pyrotechnics will only be visible to those in the VIP viewing area, where admission is $25. (There’s no cost for viewing fireworks from other areas or for the day’s entertainment; general parking is available for a suggested donation of $10 per vehicle. VIP parking is $20 per vehicle and $30 for a recreational vehicle.)

Fireworks at Central PA 4th Fest

The 2013 Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest will culminate with a fireworks show created by an all-volunteer pyrotechnics team, the fireworks will be choreographed to a variety of patriotic and popular musical selections.

Image: Patrick Mansell

“It’s a typical 4th Fest fireworks show,” Keisling said. “This is a very highly rated show because of the size and the close proximity from the VIP viewing area.”

The grand finale, according to Keisling, is a ground-rumbling spectacle, so intense that there’s no mistaking that the end is near. Last year’s finale featured 42 shells going off each second for more than a minute, he said.

“We know how to do a big ending,” said Keisling, now in his 10th year as director. 

Other big things at 4th Fest, spread throughout the University’s East Campus, include 21 bands playing on three stages, the Parade of Heroes featuring helium balloons as long as 55 feet and as tall as 35 feet, and a 14-foot American flag birthday cake. Funding from 220 sponsors and an army of approximately 580 volunteers make it all happen.

“It is amazing that they’re as dedicated and supportive as they are,” said Keisling.

With rain in the forecast, Keisling insisted the celebration is a rain or shine event, and that precipitation won’t dampen the fireworks.

“The show goes on. … We know how to shoot in the rain,” he said.

The Firecracker 4K run kicks off the day at 9 a.m., starting near the Bryce Jordan Center, and according to Keisling, a record attendance nearing 1,200 is expected. In it’s second year, the Parade of Heroes begins at 2 p.m. in front of the State College Municipal Building, passes through the downtown area, enters campus and ends at the Intramural Building. Also a team of lumberjacks from Minnesota will show their skills in 11 different events at 4:30, 6 and 7:30 p.m. Members of the audience will have the chance to get a quick lesson on logrolling and be able to test their balance on a log floating in a giant pool. 

“The public is encouraged to bring a change of clothes, and we’re told that everybody ends up in the water,” Keisling said.

For a complete schedule of events and map, go to http://www.4thfest.org/4thfest/downloads/.

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Last Updated July 03, 2013