UNIVERSITY PARK — Hours before darkness fell and the first fireworks went off, Central PA 4th Fest was keeping a huge chunk of campus packed with people eager to celebrate.
For some, it started in the parking lot. In the handicapped lot across from Beaver Stadium, a quick game of football, with a stars-and-stripes covered pigskin, was underway. Nearby, a little girl twirled in her neon-flowered skirt while she blew bubbles from a bubble gum pink wand. And tailgaters were everywhere, almost as if the big show on deck were kickoff against Ohio State.
Tyler Walter, 4, of Milroy, scored a big chunk of marbled deliciousness from the massive cake donated by Giant to celebrate the nation’s birthday.
“The fireworks were the main thing for us, but there is so much other great stuff here,” said mom Diana.
Free cake was an easy sell for lots of families. In fact, dad Ronald gave up when the line got too long. His wife promised to share her piece.
Sometimes you just can’t fool a kid by putting something healthy on a stick. Julia Ruff, 21/2, was not falling for it when her parents gave her a frozen chocolate covered banana with sprinkles. With a gleeful, sneaky look on her face, behind her sparkly shades, she meticulously worked on stripping every bite of candy off the offending fruit inside.
Her twin brother was her opposite. Ben didn’t seem to care much about the chocolate or the banana, but he was happy to take as much of his grandfather Kirk Lauder’s veggie-packed gyro as he could get.
Parents Jamie and Susie Ruff, of State College, were just enjoying the great day with family, including the twins’ grandma, Elizabeth Lauder.
“We are here for the fireworks and some great carnival type food you can’t get at home,” said Susie.
For lots of people, including two flag-themed moppets in a Radio Flyer wagon, hot dogs hit the spot, especially the free kind.
“It’s become a tradition. They start lining up at 2:30,” said volunteer Denise Gladd, of State College. The franks are donated by Weis Markets. Bags of Middleswarth potato chips come from Luse Distributing. The food is free for all, but donations are accepted, all going back to support the fest.
For Gladd, the most amazing thing is the volunteers who turn up to grill the dogs over giant grills.
“My favorite part has been watching the event grow,” she said. “It’s a family day. It’s just fun.”
Lori Falce can be reached at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @LoriFalce.