Central PA 4thFest Brings Two Days of Celebrations, Entertainment
One of the nation’s best Independence Day celebrations is back again this year, right here in State College and on the Penn State campus. This year’s Central PA 4thFest will for the first time expand to two days of entertainment, activities, food and, of course, the massive fireworks show that will cap it all off on Monday night, starting at about 9:15 p.m.
“They’re fully choreographed and we vary it every year,” said 4thFest Executive Director Karl Libhart. “We’ll put off more than 12,000 shells in 45 minutes this year, which is a phenomenal amount of lighting up the sky. We’ve been doing this for so long we sometimes take the fireworks for granted, but it’s still the primary reason people come to State College to hang out with us on the Fourth of July. It will be a spectacular show as always.”
The fun gets started on Sunday with the Carnival Midway open from 5-11 p.m. with rides, food vendors and souvenir booths. At the same time, live music begins on two separate stages – the Centre Stage at Lot 44 behind the Bryce Jordan Center and the Town Square Stage at the Beaver Stadium east parking lot.
Sunday Music Schedule
Centre Stage: 5-6:15 Down to the Wire; 6:30-7:45 Soul Prospect; 8-9:15 Lowjack; 9:30-10:45 Street Dance with The Wreckers
Town Square Stage: 5-6 The Band “Oz”; 6:15-7:15 State College Community Theatre; 7:30-8:30 The Project; 8:45-9:15 RamaLama; 9:30-10:45 Biscuit Jam.
The Street Dance at 9:30 will be an opportunity for fans who go to the State College Spikes game vs. Mahoning Valley at 6:05 p.m. to enjoy the carnival and music. The Spikes game also will feature some post-game fireworks, and a daredevil performance by human cannonball David “The Bullet” Smith.
Smith will be in the July 4 parade with his cannon and will do two shots during 4thFest on Monday. One will come at halftime of the State College Roller Derby Game that will start at 5 p.m. at the Stadium West lot, with another at 8 p.m. in the same location.
“This guy shoots himself 60 feet in the air and 120 feet down the road so it’s a pretty phenomenal thing to see,” Libhart said.
Libhart said that 4thFest most often has its best years when the holiday falls on a weekend. But with Independence Day on a Monday this year, planners decided to seize the opportunity and expand the festival for the first time.
“Monday this year gives us an opportunity to have a two-day event for the first time ever,” he said. “Since Monday is at the tail-end of a three-day weekend, we decided to open on Sunday at 5 and we’ll have carnival rides, carnival food and live entertainment then a full day of activities on Monday.”
On Monday, the Fourth of July, it will be a daylong celebration, kicking off with the Firecracker 4K and, new this year, a 4-mile race.
Libhart said the 4-mile race was added this year to attract more runners. Pre-registrations are up this year, and Libhart expects about 1,500 runners, which would eclipse the previous record of more than 1,100 set in 2014.
“We’re expecting beautiful weather on Monday and often have a lot of people who register the day of the race, so we’re expecting to have more runners this year than ever before,” he said.
The races begin at 9 a.m. from the same starting point on Curtin Road near Beaver Stadium and the Jordan Center. The 4K and 4-mile will start out in opposite directions, but come back to the same finish line.
The Parade of Heroes, now in its fifth year, begins at 2 p.m. in front of the State College Municipal Building on South Allen Street.
“We recognize local people, nominated by other local people, who have made significant contributions to the community or the country,” Libhart said. This year we’re recognizing 10 heroes, which I think is the most we’ve ever recognized.”
Each will be recognized at a ceremony at the State Theatre before joining the parade, in which they’ll be individually transported in vehicles with their names and towns on banners alongside them.
The parade continues to grow. In addition to Smith, the human cannonball, the Nittany Highlanders bagpipe band will march for the first time, along with a number of other new local and out-of-town units.
“A parade is a hard thing to put together, and because of the Fourth of July is a pretty popular day for parades, we have to rely on people who start to recognize our parade as one they want to be in rather than marching somewhere else,” Libhart said. “The parade will have more units this year than I think we’ve ever had before.”
Back on campus near the stadium and Jordan Center, the afternoon and evening are packed with entertainment before the fireworks get started.
From 2-9 p.m. three stages will host live music and other entertainment at the Centre Stage, Town Square Stage, and BJC Lawn Acoustic Stage. More than 20 acts will perform throughout the day. Plus at the Nittanyville area outside the stadium, the State College Municipal Band will have its traditional 4thFest performance – a blend of pops, patriotic songs and marches — starting at 6 p.m.
Check here for the full list of performers and starting times.
The Carnival Midway opens its second day at 2 p.m., and Dialed Action Sports returns for a third year with BMX acrobatics stunt shows at 4:30, 6 and 7 p.m. at the Founders Mall on the east side of the Jordan Center.
Military equipment will be on display on Curtin Road from 4-8 p.m. At the same time, the Operation Thank You tent will be open for visitors to make donations to mission kits for U.S. military personnel and to sign thank you cards for those serving the nation.
From 4-8 p.m. near the Jordan Center, volunteers will give away 4,000 free hot dogs and chips. At 6 p.m. in the Stadium West lot, a 14-foot flag birthday cake from Giant Foods will be served.
Sky’s the Limit Ballooning will be offering tethered hot air balloon rides for a fee from 5-9 p.m. at the grassy field below lot 44. There will also be plenty of kids’ activities as well, with Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, face-painting and crafts from 4-8 p.m. in the Founders Mall area.
The Penn State All-Sports Museum in Beaver Stadium will be open until 9 p.m., with special activities and prizes outside the museum from 4-8:30 p.m.
Then after the fireworks there is still one more opportunity to celebrate the holiday with a final Street Dance featuring Chris Vipond and the Stanley Street Band on the Centre Stage.
“We like to give people the opportunity to hang out with us for another hour and dance and finish out their celebration of our nation’s birthday,” Libhart said.
This has been Libhart’s first year as 4thFest executive director, and he says the past 12 months have been great thanks to the hard work of volunteers.
“It’s just been an amazing year working with our 600 volunteers, 30 of whom are involved pretty much year-round,” he said. “This thing runs like a well-oiled machine, and it’s just been great for me to be a part of it.”