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The Penn Relays

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

Penn Relays

A late April tradition, the annual Penn Relay Carnival is now in its 121st year, making it the world’s first and most widely recognized relay meet. Credit: Photo by D. Tavani

Description

Dates:
April 23-25, 2015

Overview

A late April tradition, the annual Penn Relay Carnival is now in its 121st year, making it the world’s first and most widely recognized relay meet.

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

And 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.

History

The Penn Relays’ status as America’s largest amateur track meet goes back to the very first running, 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.

Come Prepared

Tickets are required for admission — check the website for details. Public transportation is recommended; parking is limited.

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