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BAA hosts first Marathon Fan Fest

Fans cheering on their friends or family members participating in the Boston Marathon by holding up big orange signs with letters on them.

The Boston Athletic Association hosted its first Marathon Fan Fest over the weekend for competitors and fans of the Boston Marathon. The events leading up to the Patriots Day race began on Friday afternoon and continued through Sunday evening, as Boston locals and international visitors alike took part in the festivities

The Fan Fest was held in Copley Square, just a minute or so walk from the marathon finish line. Activities at the festival included musical performances, races for local students and meet and greets with former marathon champions.

Meg Reilly, director of communications for BAA, said the festival was designed to be a place for spectators and participants to enjoy the weekend leading up to the race.

“Boston Marathon Fan Fest is a place where everyone can relax and soak in the spirit of the Boston Marathon over the weekend,” Reilly said.

Fans and runners from all over the United States and across the world came to participate in the festivities. Mark Wu, a 65-year-old from Taiwan, came to Boston for the weekend to run in the marathon alongside his blind friend, who he will be guiding along the race.

“I’m very excited, even though we have not done any training for it, but I trust that we will start walking once we get too tired to run,” Wu said.

Some festival-goers were returning to celebrate marathon weekend, but others were experiencing the marathon festivities for the first time. Betsy Roberts, 48, and Thomas Anderson, 47, traveled from Chesapeake, Virginia, to see the race for the first time this year.

Their daughter is a freshman at Boston University this year, Anderson said.

“Neither of us have seen the marathon before, but it is a fun way to familiarize ourselves with Boston culture and take advantage of the warm weather,” he said.

Roberts said she hopes that participating in the weekends events will show her daughter, Kate, the importance of participating in local events.

“We want Kate to know that it is important to participate in the local culture of anywhere you live, even if you don’t particularly like sports or whatever,” Roberts said. “And this is just a fun thing to do together as a family on a Saturday afternoon.”

Joshua Brown, a 31-year-old South Boston native, volunteered at the festival and said he wants to continue the excitement of the marathon tradition into his adulthood.

“I love Boston, and I’m always looking for opportunities to get involved in the community,” Brown said.  “Growing up, the weekend before the marathon was always such a good time, and as an adult I don’t want to lose that sense of excitement and suspense.”

During the Fan Fest on Saturday, young families and children populated Copley Square as they played outdoor games such as cornhole.

In front of Trinity Church Saturday, festival goers danced to a performance by the band Dalton and the Sheriffs, enjoyed free games of Jenga and snapped pictures in front of the BAA sign displayed in the center of the square.

Middle schoolers from clubs along the marathon route played relay games and raced up and down Boylston Street, which was adjacent to the festivities. Other children swarmed around a life-sized Lego replica of the Boston Marathon trophy brought by Legoland Discovery Center and were given guidance as they made their own Lego creations.

On Saturday afternoon, former Boston Marathon champions Bill Rodgers and Joan Benoit Samuelson hosted a meet and greet. They shared insider tips and tricks to conquering the race and crossing the finish line successfully with marathon fans and runners.

The day before, on Friday, the Fan Fest hosted a live clinic to rile up last-minute enthusiasm and anticipation for Monday’s race. Former Boston Marathon champion Meb Keflezighi gave quick tips on how to prepare to run the marathon.

Jackie Thibodeau, a 51-year-old festival attendee from Bellingham, said she enjoyed the weekend and was impressed with the activities the BAA put on.

“I’m really glad I came out for the weekend,” Thibodeau said. “The games and activities were clearly designed for families with young kids, and it has been great to be outside, in the fresh air, listening to the live music with the kids after such a long winter.”


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