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Parade, Entertainment, Fireworks and More Highlight 4th Fest

by on July 03, 2019 12:00 PM

Related: Months in the Making, Central PA 4th Fest's Outsized Celebration Takes a Dedicated Force of Volunteers

One of the nation's top fireworks shows will cap off a full day of celebrations for Central PA 4th Fest on Thursday around State College and on the Penn State campus.

Festivities kick off on Thursday morning and continue through to the pyrotechnics, a 45-minute spectacular beginning after dark, typically around 9:20 p.m., near Beaver Stadium.

Independence Day celebrations in the Centre Region date back to 1927, when Alpha Fire Company started hosting a carnival. After about 50 years, the torch was passed to State College Sunrise Kiwanis Club in 1978 and through the 1980s a small fireworks show was hosted near Beaver Stadium. In 1991, WZWW Radio and United Federal Bank took on the celebration and from there it grew to an acclaimed event produced by Dan Barker and his family.

By 2001 the event had become too large for one family and the community-based nonprofit Central PA 4th Fest was created. What is now an all-day event drawing tens of thousands of people is the result of year-round work involving hundreds of volunteers. Between 60,000 and 80,000 spectators come for the fireworks show each year.

Here's what's in store for the 2019 edition of 4th Fest.

Firecracker Races

As usual, the Firecracker 4k and 4-mile races kick things off starting at 9 a.m. on Curtin Road near Beaver Stadium. Day-of registration will be available from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m. in front of the Bryce Jordan Center Ticket Office.

The 4k dates back to 2001, while the 4-mile race was added in 2016 and has become increasingly popular. In total, about 1,000 runners are expected to participate in the races.

A digital timing system will be used to determine winners in various age categories. Prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers, male and female, in each of nine age categories, as well as the top overall male and female for both distances.

Registration is $30 for adults and $20 for ages 18 and under. Payment is by cash or check. 

Independence Day Parade

At 2 p.m., State College area churches will participate in the Freedom Bell Ringing and then it's time for the Independence Day Parade. Stepping off near the State College Municipal Building, 243 S. Allen St., the parade makes its way through downtown and onto campus before concluding at the Bryce Jordan Center.

The parade lasts about 90 minutes and consists of about 100 units. Some of those include large balloons, first responders, community groups, bands, show horses and a salute to veterans. It also features community heroes, who are selected to receive a commemorative plaque and are transported along the parade route with their name and town highlighted on banners. 

Parking will be restricted on the parade route, which also will be closed to traffic:

North on South Allen Street to East College Avenue;
East on East College Avenue to Shortlidge Road;
North on Shortlidge Road to Pollock Road;
East Pollock Road to Bigler Road;
North on Bigler Road to Curtin Road;
East on Curtin Road and ending near the Bryce Jordan Center.

Activities and Entertainment

Entertainment kicks off at noon on the 100 block of South Allen Street with the Curwensville Marching Band, followed by the Nittany Highland Pipe Band at 12:30 p.m. and a Dialed Action BMX stunt show at 1:15 p.m.

Following the parade, events shift to the areas around Beaver Stadium and Bryce Jordan Center. Numerous local vendors offering a wide variety of foods will open at 2 p.m.

Activities include two more BMX shows and Lumberjack Enterprises shows with logrolling, axe throwing and more. You'll also find mechanical bull riding, State College Area Roller Derby and pyrotechnic demonstrations.

A kids crafts area, history of the flag tent, Adam Swartz Puppets and activities from a number of community groups also will be available between 4 and 8 p.m. Operation Thank You will be on hand throughout the day for visitors to sign thank you cards and make donations to help ship packages to military personnel serving overseas.

Free hot dogs will be available, while they last, starting at 4 p.m. near the Bryce Jordan Center. Pieces of a giant flag birthday cake will be offered at 6 p.m. in the Beaver Stadium West Lot.

Nearly a dozen musical acts will perform on three stages through the afternoon and early evening:

Towne Square Stage (Beaver Stadium West Lot)

Jason Adams: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Haystack Lightning: 5-6 p.m.
Kristi Jean and Her Ne’er Do Wells: 6:30-7:30 p.m.
Gabe Stillman Band: 8-9 p.m.

Main Stage (Jordan East Lot)

Swamp Root: 4-5:30 p.m.
The Weaklings: 7:30-9 p.m.

Acoustic Stage (Jordan Center Founders Mall)

ESP: 4-5 p.m.
Dale Keller: 5-6 p.m.
Corn Brothers: 6-7 p.m.
SGT Bob 7-8 p.m.
Tommy Wareham: 8-9 p.m.

4th Fest Map

Activities and entertainment schedule

Concession vendors


The biggest draw of 4th Fest is, of course, the massive fireworks show. There's something new every year, but every show, created by an all-volunteer pyrotechnic team, features up to 170 different kinds of shells with up to 12,000 shells set off over 45 minutes leading up to the grand finale.

The display is choreographed to music that can be heard on WBUS 99.5 FM, with an array of music both patriotic and spanning numerous genres. The show starts after dark, around 9:20 p.m.

General parking in lots around Beaver Stadium and Medlar Field is $10 and opens at 9 a.m. Early-bird lots open at 8 a.m. VIP area parking and viewing passes are $25, or $50 for RVs.

No parking is permitted along streets near the stadium, along Mount Nittany Expressway, Interstate 99 or Orchard Road. Parking restrictions will be enforced and violators will be ticketed and/or towed. At approximately 9:40 p.m. the following traffic pattern will be put into effect until the outbound traffic has cleared: 

- Park Avenue will be one-way eastbound from Fox Hollow Road to Hospital Drive         

- Porter Road will be one-way southbound from Beaver Stadium to East College Avenue. 

Drivers should expect delays during outbound traffic because traffic volume is expected to be equivalent to that of a Penn State home football game.

What Else Is Happening

Looking for more? Here are some other things going on around the area to celebrate the day.

Kids on Wheels Parade

Centre Region Parks and Recreation's Kids on Wheels Parade gives children a chance to decorate their bikes, scooters, strollers and wagons and show them off in a morning parade on July 4. Kids can bring their bikes to the lower pavilion at Holmes-Foster Park from 7 to 8 p.m. tonight to join CRPR staff for decorating. Streamers and tape will be provided.

On Thursday, gather at 9:30 a.m. at the corner of Locust Lane and Foster Avenue for the parade, which will conclude at Sidney Friedman Parklet with parachute games and watermelon.

Remington Ryde

The Remington Ryde Bluegrass Festival is a five-day event at Grange Park in Centre Hall kicking off Wednesday and continuing through Sunday. With more than 11 hours of music each day, the festival features nearly two dozen national acts, food and craft vendors, kids programming, workshops and plenty of jamming, with RV and rough camping available. Single-day and five-day tickets are available. For ticket info and more details, check the festival website.

Kids Day at the Military Museum

Kids of all ages get to try on the field gear and head gear from the education collection at the Pennsylvania Military Museum in Boalsburg. Pose for pictures behind the wheel of an authentic Jeep and visit education stations in the galleries for more fun discoveries throughout the day, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Regular admission rates apply.

Geoff Rushton is managing editor for Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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