It's an event that recognized as the largest co-ed gymnastics event in the state, one of the largest in the eastern United States, and it's taking place this weekend at the Bayfront Convention Center.
It's the 17th Annual Stars and Stripes Gymnastics Invitational hosted by the Erie Gymnastics Center. This year's event is expected to be the largest ever with more than 1800 athletes expected to perform. The event started off as the Groundhog Day Invitational then, after 9/11, according to Coach Andy Parks, Sr., they "changed the name to Stars and Stripes, and it honors our active and fallen heroes, first responders, EMT's, firefighters... that's what this event is all about".
A mammoth American flag reminds everyone that, since the event's inception, Erie Gymnastics has raised more than $75,000 for related charities. The benefiting charity this year is the Fallen Soldiers Picnic Fund. For these athletes, it took a lot of practice and dedication to get to this event. Andy Parks, Jr. says, "we go about 11 hours a week, three days a week. It's pretty hard at practice, mostly six events, a lot of strength, a lot of workout[s]..."
Gymnast Mikaela Gorniak says, "you never stop using your energy, you're always doing something."
The invitational takes over the Bayfront Convention Center Friday and runs through Monday from 8am until 8pm each day. Prices are listed in the video above. But, members of the military, veterans, police, fire, and rescue workers can all attend for free.
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