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The Penn Relays Carnival

The world’s oldest relay meet, held annually at the University of Pennsylvania

Penn Relays

The Penn Relays is the oldest and most recognized annual track meet. Credit: Photo courtesy of D. Tavani

Description

Dates:
April 28-30, 2016

Overview

Now in its 122nd year, the Penn Relay Carnival is the world’s first – and most widely recognized – annual relay meet.

Each year, this historic rite of spring draws crowds of up to 100,000 to the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field. Here, spectators know they’ll see some of the world’s top track athletes compete — and often begin Olympic careers.

Along with the athletes come the fans, who also hail from all over the country and the world. There’s an accompanying festival offering food, crafts and souvenirs along the streets that surround the stadium.

The Races

Over the course of the three-day Penn Relays festival, top high school, collegiate, masters and even Olympic athletes take to Franklin Field for games like the 4 × 400 meters relay, javelin, pole vault, 100 meter dash, mile runs, sprints and more in hopes of bringing home a medal.

Perhaps the most anticipated race is the USA vs. World series of elite races, which will take place on April 30.

Penn Relays Carnival

Returning to the festival is the ever-popular Penn Relays Carnival, which is only open to ticket-holders and is the epicenter of non-relays fun. The carnival is home to the Vendor Village, which promises everything from food and drinks — including eats inspired by some of the participating countries — to track and field demonstrations and top-notch athletic merchandise.

Getting There

Take the Market-Frankford Subway line to 34th and Market streets and walk the few blocks to the track at 33rd and Spruce streets.

From the suburbs, SEPTA Regional Rail is one of the most convenient travel methods. Take the nearest line to 30th Street Station and it’s just a short walk to Franklin Field.

For those driving in, parking is plentiful. Parking garages are located at 3335 Chestnut Street, 4009 Walnut Street, 119 S. 38th Street and more. Click here for the full list of nearby parking garages. Street parking is also be available, but will be harder to find. For more information about parking and driving directions, click the button below.

History

The Penn Relays’ status as America’s largest amateur track meet goes back to the very first running meet, held in 1895 to stoke flagging student interest in track and field. That event drew 5,000 spectators, the largest audience for a track meet in Philadelphia up to that time.

The Relays have played an important role in Philadelphia’s cultural life from the beginning. It was one of few major events that accepted African-American competitors, and it was one of the high points on the African-American social calendar.

More Information

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