The Central Pennsylvania 4th Fest is reaching the final stages of preparations for its annual celebration of America’s independence.
Three weeks ago, pyrotechnic team volunteers started setting up the fireworks for the event. The display is set to go off 9:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The fireworks are set up in a wooden case that displays plastic tubes called shells in different directions. The shells are connected to an electric rail that controls when the fireworks will come out. Since there are so many fireworks, they can’t be lit up by people. Instead, they are lit up by a computer near the area, said Gary Mayhew, chairman of pyrotechnics for 4th Fest .
“It’s a much safer way to shoot fireworks than regular ones. We can stop the show at anytime if we need to,” Mayhew said.
The fireworks are choreographed to light up to different songs that are played at the same time. A team led by Pyrotechnics Assistant Chair Matthew Lindenberg plans this choreography every fall.
“It’s an art to choreograph that. All the explosions go out to a part of a song,” Mayhew said.
This year the event has about 500 volunteers that help in different areas for the event, like the pyrotechnic, trash, photographers and videographers teams.
Diane Roher, a State College High School graduate, has been a volunteer for more than six years, but this is the first time she is part of the pyrotechnic team.
“It’s a lot more exciting. We get to meet more people and understand the greater dynamics of the fireworks,” Roher said. “It was a scary experience at first because I thought that this could kill me. But it was fine, nothing happened and I still have all my fingers.”
Right next to the fireworks there will be some secret special effects that only people from the VIP viewing area will see.
“If you saw it last year, you will not recognize anything. Everything is different,” said Bernie Keisling, 4th Fest executive director.
The event offers more than just fireworks. There is a Firecracker 4K race, a carnival, live music and a World War II plane that will be doing flyovers. Also, for the first time, there will be a Parade of Heroes that will recognize the heroes of Central Pennsylvania.
The local community nominated heroes and a nominating committee selected 13 of them, Keisling said.
Bill Mertens, a volunteer photographer and advisory board member for 4th Fest, has been part of the event for six years. He enjoys taking pictures of the fireworks but also the celebration itself.
“If people are having a good time, they ignore you and you get better pictures. It’s a wonderful time and I’ve never seen volunteers work so happy,” Mertens said.
The event is free but the VIP viewing area is $25.
The VIP tickets for the viewing area can be purchased at the Bryce Jordan Center box office or on the day of the event.