The Central PA 4thFest will take place on July 4 on Penn State's University Park campus. The 4thFest has been rated among the top five July 4 fireworks shows in the United States, but the festival includes far more than just fireworks.
One of the nation's biggest July 4 celebrations is getting even bigger this year. Central Pennsylvania 4thFest, recognized as having the third-largest Independence Day fireworks show in the country, is adding a Parade of Heroes to the festivities this year. The Parade of Heroes is a way to publicly thank and recognize the heroes of Central Pennsylvania, including the military veterans, firefighters, doctors and nurses who work protecting and healing people, as well as the teachers, coaches and others who help children. Heroes also can be ordinary citizens who see something that needs to be done and do it.
Nonstop entertainment on three different stages, carnival rides, games, magic, demonstrations, food, birthday cake, a skydiver carrying a 7,000-square-foot flag, and of course a huge fireworks show kept many thousands of people entertained, as the largest all-volunteer 4thFest Celebration unfolded Sunday on Penn State's University Park campus. For photos, check http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2290 and http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/2291 online.
It takes a lot to put on one of the largest Fourth of July fireworks shows in the nation. Just ask Bernie Keisling, executive director of Central Pennsylvania 4thFest. "We have about 500 volunteers working on this event, with a core group working year-round," said Keisling, who has been the volunteer in charge of the event for the past seven years. "It's kind of like a Noah's Ark of the community. You're liable to see ministers, nurses, housewives, professors, mechanics, farmers ... there are at least two of everything you can possibly think of, all out here helping to put on this great big, family-friendly, patriotic birthday party."
The Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics will provide special eyeglasses, free of charge, to fireworks fans at the Central PA 4thFest -- a State College Fourth-of-July event featuring patriotic entertainment by local artists, games, rides and, of course, a spectacular fireworks display.
Organizers of the 4thFest Celebration on Penn State's University Park campus will be testing the fireworks at dusk this evening (June 29). The test firing will start around dusk, and should last about 15 minutes. "Since this is a choreographed show, timing is very important. We need to determine times that it takes to launch shells and get them to their maximum altitude. We need to record the time it takes for the shell to break, put out its display whether it's a willow or a peony, and then the time to decay all the little sparklies from the sky," said Gary Mayhew, chair of the 4thFest pyrotechnics committee.
The Penn State Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics will provide special eyeglasses, free of charge, to spectators at the Central PA 4th Fest. The glasses can be used to identify the types of atoms responsible for producing the different colors of the fireworks. Astronomers use similar technology in their research labs and telescopes to determine the composition of extremely distant objects. The eyeglasses, made by American Paper Optics, will be distributed from 4-8 p.m. on July 4 at the astronomy department's Founders' Mall table at the Bryce Jordan Center. The glasses also will be distributed throughout the crowd during the fireworks show.
Although July Fourth is still two days away, local volunteers have been hard at work for a month in preparation for the Central PA 4thFest. Commonly in the top-10 best displays for July Fourth, the 4thFest hails in nearly 600 volunteers every year, with 80+ involved in the fireworks portion. Long-time volunteer Bob Williams said tens of thousands of man-hours have gone into the preparation for this event, beginning in fall 2007 with the music choreography, continuing up through the event, and finishing with the cleanup activities on July 5. Organizers say that volunteers are always needed -- although no pay is provided, lunch and dinner are, as are special viewing opportunities come the night of the Fourth. More than 150 organizations have contributed to the festivities to allow it to run so successfully in addition to the hundreds of volunteers organized by Central PA July 4th Inc, the nonprofit organization that has administered the local festivities since 2001.
According to 4thFest executive director Bernie Keisling, the fireworks display is "but a small part of the festivities," although it is a significant part of the day. That said, the 10,000-shell display to be launched at 9:15 p.m. is always a huge source of pride for the Penn State and State College communities. In addition to perhaps the largest Fourth of July pyrotechnic display run solely by unpaid volunteers, the 4thFest is also scheduled to include a day full of festivities for those of all ages. For photos of the 2008 pyrotechnics set-up, visit http://live.psu.edu/stilllife/1740 online.
Independence Day in Happy Valley this year means a long holiday weekend that starts with a big bang -- or rather hundreds of bangs. Central PA 4thFest, the region's highly popular all-volunteer fireworks event will cap off a day of fun family-friendly events.