Fourth of July Celebrations Draw Thousands to Winter Park

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George Mrvos was among many revelers seeking shade and hydration on a hot Independence Day morning, but his cape and makeup helped him stand out in the massive crowd. “I’m a watermelon superhero,” he said, referencing the costume he wore for the 2023 Watermelon 5K.

More than 2,600 participants filled the streets of Winter Park for the sold-out event – presented by Track Shack and AdventHealth – that was only the start of the 4th of July festivities. After runners and walkers clocked their times, a watermelon-eating contest and kids’ run drew spectators while city staff tested the Main Stage speakers and inflated bounce slides. Events ran until 11 a.m. and included games, live music and free refreshments, but the biggest attraction was the community.

“We’ve been running the 5K since 2008,” said Nicole Mrvos. “It’s a fun event, it’s camaraderie, and it’s a chance to be part of something big.”

Runners and walkers make their way through the streets of downtown Winter Park on the morning of July 4, 2023, during the Watermelon 5K.
Sweltering temperatures did not intimidate the 2,600 participants from taking on the 3.1-mile course.
Participants and spectators celebrated the day with festive accessories.
A star-spangled T-rex takes advantage of one of several hydration stations.
George Mrvos – dressed as a “watermelon superhero” – and his sister Nicole ran in their 15th Watermelon 5K.
Boyce and Ginny Hornberger cool-down with Cindy Reemsnyder (center). “We just met,” said Reemsnyder, who ran her eighth Watermelon 5K. “That’s what these events are for, meeting fellow runners and getting together with the community.”
Organizers provided plenty of free watermelon to help racers and spectators beat the heat.
A watermelon-eating contest drew as much attention as the race itself.
Two male and two female competitors, drawn from a long sign-up list, battled it out for the title of Watermelon King and Queen.
Katie Briggs and Andrew Catalano earned their crowns by eating their fill, and then some.
A kids’ race concluded the 5K festivities, but there was more in store as the celebration moved to Central Park.
Two-year-old Meteo Garcia gets some help from his aunt, Peyton Lewis, at a giant tic-tac-toe game.
Kobe Aguirre takes his turn on a bounce slide in the Kids’ Zone at Central Park West Meadow.
Spectators unfolded lawn chairs and blankets for a free concert at Central Park Main Stage.
Bach Festival Society conductor and artistic director Dr. John Sinclair leads the Brass Ensemble.
The Bach Festival Choir takes the stage for a rousing rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
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