IRONMAN Volunteers

Community gives medal worthy performance in inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Pennsylvania Happy Valley

For the more than 2,400 elite athletes that competed in the inaugural IRONMAN® 70.3® Pennsylvania Happy Valley triathlon, crossing the finish line at Beaver Stadium marked a moment of tremendous pride and personal accomplishment. Months and months of preparation and planning were followed by day-of determination and grit to achieve the goal of IRONMAN success. For first-time participants, it was a particularly noteworthy milestone.

– by Fritz Smith

As I reflect on IRONMAN® weekend, I believe the same holds true for event organizers and the entire Centre County community – a community that gave its own medal-worthy performance by embracing the triathlon and its participants from 43 states and 15 countries, regions and territories.

Bringing IRONMAN® to Happy Valley was a process that started almost three years ago. Meetings between The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau (HVAB), Happy Valley Sports & Entertainment Alliance (HVSEA), Penn State University and IRONMAN® officials soon broadened to nearly 34 state, county and local agencies, and local municipalities in Centre and Clinton counties. Executing a first-time event of this magnitude was a profile in multi-agency and multi-county cooperation – from PennDOT and the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, to State Police and local police/EMS personnel and numerous municipal officials.

IRONMAN village

IRONMAN village was bustling with pre-race-day activity, where volunteers registered 2,405 athletes.

Local race director Josh Cone did a fantastic job managing the day-to-day logistics over the past year, as well as effectively communicating with athletes and the public about what to expect on race day. Local volunteer coordinator Eric Nartatez secured the team of 1,100 amazing volunteers needed for important roles throughout race weekend.

The HVAB cannot say enough about the collective commitment by so many to see the IRONMAN® 70.3® Pennsylvania Happy Valley triathlon a success right out of the gate. We are waiting for economic impact and visitor spending data, but anticipate that IRONMAN® provided a significant boost to local businesses and the overall economy. This goes along with the tremendous marketing value that a large-scale event such as this brings to host communities.

Happy Valley Iron Man 2023 63

IRONMAN triathletes line up for the swim start at Bald Eagle State Park.

As I look back on all that transpired, I am equally proud of the way local residents throughout the county showed up in a big way to cheer on competitors as they swam, cycled and ran their way throughout our picturesque rural corridors and the Penn State University campus. This includes our Amish friends, who gathered in groups to send waves and smiles to passing cyclists. The triathletes themselves recognized and greatly appreciated this level of support – not to mention the very creative signage – from spectators along the course.

From watching the first swimmer take the water at Bald Eagle State Park to the last runner crossing the finish line at the stadium’s 50 yard line, it was a wonderful feeling to see the event come to fruition. I believe we demonstrated to national and international competitors the true spirit of Happy Valley hospitality, and look forward to doing so again in 2024.

Morning volunteers

Volunteers at the start of the competition arrived at Bald Eagle State Park at 4:30 a.m.

Yes, we learned some lessons from the inaugural event. The HVAB and HVSEA already have identified improvements and enhancements. Upcoming debriefs with IRONMAN®, and university and agency partners will further address how to do it bigger and better next year, and how to best accommodate the athletes, and the residents who live along the course.

Our hope is that the entire Centre County community will value what the competition meant to the athletes who competed, and what the event means to our local economy, and will look forward to the IRONMAN® 70.3® Pennsylvania Happy Valley being a mainstay of the summer calendar in Centre and Clinton counties for years to come.

Fritz Smith is president and CEO of The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau.

The Happy Valley Adventure Bureau publishes up-to-date event information at