4th Fest volunteers putting finishing touches on festivities

Amber Williams, left, and Bryce Boyer set up candles that will fire during Central Pa. 4th Fest on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.
Amber Williams, left, and Bryce Boyer set up candles that will fire during Central Pa. 4th Fest on Wednesday, July 1, 2015. CDT photo

Independence Day is right around the corner, and the volunteers who craft the annual Central PA 4th Fest experience are hard at work in preparation for the festivities.

And it’s those volunteers who make it a memorable event each year.

“Everybody associated with (4th Fest) — whether we’re setting up the pyrotechnics or celebrations, or with the entertainers — the entire day, the entire show is set up and run by volunteers,” assistant pyrotechnics chairman Matt Lindenberg said.

Anyone driving around Medlar Field in the past week has likely seen the crowds of 4th Fest-shirted volunteers moving around the area, particularly the ones setting up for the fest’s signature fireworks show.

Thirty to 40 volunteers were setting up for Saturday’s fireworks show, Lindenberg said — all taking personal vacation time to help put the show together if they weren’t already retired.

More than 12,000 shells will be fired off, he said. For now, the setup is going well, despite some setbacks suffered during the particularly wet weather the region has seen in the past week.

“We always try to incorporate something new or something different for each show,” he said. “Some years it’s something to do with set pieces, or something we do in the sky, or some kind of effect.

“Everyone should see something new, if not a few things,” he said.

A show this large is controlled entirely by computers, Lindenberg said. Choreographing the show begins around Labor Day and runs till Christmas, with two computers handling the launches.

Even in the case of bad weather, the show will go on, he said. The system can fire in heavy rain, as organizers learned in 2004, so unless a particularly bad weather situation is predicted, it’s difficult to cancel the show.

The National Weather Service is calling for a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms on Saturday.

But 4th Fest is more than just the fireworks. Visitors can expect some new food vendors and games, celebration chairwoman Pam Decker said, as well as familiar favorites like the large flag cake.

“The free hot dogs and cake are always popular,” she said. “Last year we had people lining up a half hour before the tent opened waiting to get their piece of cake.”

Decker lauded the volunteers as well, saying there was “no way” the festival could happen without the help of the volunteer team. She herself started as a volunteer helping with the cake before moving up to the 4th Fest board of directors.

“This is an event that relies on the community to happen,” she said.