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The city is gearing up for the Penn Relays and NFL Draft.
The city is gearing up for the Penn Relays and NFL Draft.

Penn Relays Kick off in Philly marks Annual Start of tradition steep in Carribean culture

There's a sports event taking over the city and it's not the NFL draft.

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It’s that time of year again. The time when athletes throughout North America compete to rise to the top for their talents and athletic prowess.

And, we're not talking about the NFL Draft. Today marked the official kickoff for the Penn Relays in Philadelphia, an event where Mayor Jim Kenney, Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson, and former star Renaldo Nehemiah and others gathered to celebrate the tradition that is one of the oldest sports attractions in the city.

“The Penn Relays bring so much to the city and provides our residents with the opportunity to see world-class athletes,” said the mayor at a press conference for the event.

And his comments were no understatement. As the city gears up to have thousands flock to the city for the NFL Draft events, one of the city’s staples isn’t getting the traction it deserves for its ability to attract millions to the city.

With estimates from Penn Relays Director Dave Johnson stating that over 225 colleges from 30 states would be participating in the event in addition to over 1050 high schools and countries throughout North America and the Caribbean, to underestimate the impact of the event would be a mistake.

The Penn Relays usually attracts around 100,000 visitors to the city on a yearly basis so city officials and organizers aren’t worried about the influx this year.

The oldest and largest track and field competition in the country, it has been an attraction to the city every April since 1895.

Held at the University of Pennsylvania at Franklin Field since it’s inception, the event has continued to grow with 116 events and more athletes running in the Penn Relays in 2012 and over 30 competitors in the Olympics having run the race.

With students and professionals of all backgrounds there, the Penn Relays boasts an event  where more athletes run in the Penn Relays than any other track and field meet in the world.

It regularly attracts more than 15,000 participants from high schools, colleges, and track clubs throughout North America and abroad, especially from Haiti and Jamaica, and participants compete for the top spot in more than 300 events over five days.

With the biggest event happening on Saturday, the finals are usually the main event for both spectators and participants.

The Penn Relays also holds a Catholic Youth Organization night for Catholic Middle Schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Preliminaries are run on the Tuesday during Carnival Week, and the Finals are run on Friday.

If you’re looking to participate in the second event taking over the city, tickets for the Penn Relays are still available.

Tickets are available here.

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