The 2014 Central Pa 4th Fest began with a bang – literally.
A mob of runners lined up on Curtin Road on the Penn State campus at 9 a.m. on Friday, waiting for the sound of the firework that would begin the Firecracker 4K Race. When the bang came the runners exploded into action, surging forward in a rush of red, white and blue.
State College resident Julie Brown came out for the race with her husband Bill Brown to begin a long day of celebration. She says that the race is perfect for runners of any skill level or age.
“It’s a good way to get out here and burn some calories in the morning so we can have a big picnic later on in the day,” Brown says. Her husband adds that he always enjoys watching the patriotism of the younger runners, who often carry large American flags to lead the race and come in red, white and blue face paint.
Race director Dennis Myers says State College has a “very active running community” that comes out each year for the annual race. Having started 13 years ago, the race “has grown into a bigger and bigger success each year,” with approximately 1,200 runners participating in Friday morning’s event.
Jocelyn Negron drove from New Jersey to see her family for the holiday. She describes herself as “a big fitness person” and says she appreciates the chance to get a morning workout with her mother, Cindy Kochakian. Having run the Firecracker 4K together in the past, Kochakian says she had no plans to miss it this year.
“There’s a very fun energy in the crowd here,” Kochakian says. “It shows that we have a community that really cares.”
Boalsburg middle school student Emma Simon and her father Jim Simon have “been coming to the fireworks since forever.” An athlete in both cross country running and track-and-field, Emma says she enjoys running because allows her to spend time with her friends and it “doesn’t take a lot of hand-eye coordination."
Her father says in the past they’ve driven “hundreds of miles for events half as good as the festival we have here.” Though he looks forward to the famed 4th Fest fireworks, Simon also enjoys the chance to run through Penn State’s campus with his daughter on such a clear, cool morning. Temperatures were near the 60 degree mark.
Anthony Achtley of State College may enjoy running, but he says he’s come to the race for the past six years to help support 4th Fest. The entrance fee from each runner helps support the costs of organizing the annual festival.
“I take a lot of personal joy in this event. It’s a really great thing for State College,” Achtley says. “Anytime you get the chance to celebrate your community and its diversity is great.”
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