Hockessin’s Newest Tradition: 5K for Fireworks

by Sasha Reddy

A time-honored tradition, the Hockessin Fireworks have brought residents together to celebrate Independence Day every 4th of July for decades.

“It’s probably the largest, biggest, most fun parade and fireworks show of 4th of July in the state,” says Representative Mike Smith. He speaks from experience. “I actually used to work for Congressman Mike Castle, and I used to drive him to all of the fireworks and parades throughout the whole state in one day. Hockessin has always had a great tradition.”

Mike has been the 22nd district representative since 2018, and a significant player in Hockessin’s annual parade and fireworks display organization since 2020. “I found myself during COVID being like a one-stop shop for everybody to answer questions,” he remembers. During a 2020 Greater Hockessin Area Development Association (GHADA) meeting, one Hockessin resident questioned why the fireworks could not be hosted despite being an outdoor event with ample opportunity to socially distance. Mike wasn’t sure either, so he followed up with the governor’s office for clarification. Ultimately, the 4th of July parade was canceled due to safety concerns, but the fireworks still went off.

Since then, Mike has continued as a critical player in the organization of Hockessin’s annual Independence Day celebration. Working closely with GHADA president Mark Blake, he’s learned all the ins and outs of planning the event and coordinating with other state officials, county police, local businesses, and sponsors to pull everything together.

The First 5K for Fireworks

The Independence Day events typically cost anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 to host. And just as inflation has affected the price of everything from eggs at the grocery store to gas at the pump, the cost of running such a huge event has increased, too. So in 2022, as COVID-19 became less of a concern, the organizers began seeking new ways to raise money and engage with the community beyond the usual one-day festival. “The race kind of came in because we wanted to almost start things sooner,” Mike says, “but also create a vehicle to help fundraise in a healthy way for the fireworks.”

So, with aid from Jen Besten, HAC Personal Trainer and Run HAC Coach, plus Nic DeCaire, President of Fusion Race Timing, Hockessin’s first 5K for Fireworks began to take shape.

Though Jen Besten had helped plan many running events in the past, her role in organizing this race was even more significant. With the 5K for Fireworks being a brand-new event, the race route had to be designed from scratch. Promoting the race and finding sponsors was a big point of concern, too. Having coached Run Club and one-on-one training clients at HAC for years, Jen had built many connections in the local running community, so spreading the word and driving interest was no challenge. Finalizing the race route took a little more planning. Jen and Nic DeCaire worked together to create a race route that put as much distance as possible between runners and local traffic.

“I didn’t understand why [Nic] was so calm,” Jen remembers. “He is calm because this is what he does! Fusion came on the day of the race and knew exactly what they were doing.”

Mike concurs, “Figuring out the course for him, I think, is really easy. But making it an experience is what makes it fun for everybody. Outside of just the run, there’s the atmosphere before and after, too. And I think Nic’s done a really good job of figuring that out and making it fun for everybody.”

Ultimately, the 2022 race was a huge success, both as a fun community event and the last big fundraising push before the 4th of July. “We didn’t plan to make money from the race itself, only from the sponsors,” Jen says. “However, we had enough people participate in the race that the race itself made money. This is awesome for an inaugural race.”

Changes in 2023

This year, the 5K for Fireworks introduced a new challenge: the Firecracker Pump N’ Run. “Participants come in the evening before the 5K and weigh in,” Jen says. “Depending on their gender and age, they have to lift a percentage of their body weight as a bench press. For example, women over 40 have to lift 50% of their body weight.” Pump N’ Run participants then run the 5K with the rest of the racers; for every bench press complete, 30 seconds will be deducted from their race time, and 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place Pump N’ Run awards are given in addition to the regular 5K medalists. This option provides a fun, unique opportunity for strong individuals who may be lacking in running experience.

It’s About Community

Mike believes that the world would be a much better place if everyone got to know their immediate neighbors and we each had someone in our community looking out for us. He appreciates the close ties that Hockessin residents have with each other and applauds the continued support for their strong holiday tradition.

“The 5K for fireworks came about because of a need in the community,” Jen concludes. “The price for our Fourth of July celebration increased dramatically after COVID. Because the Hockessin community values our long-standing 4th of July traditions, people are participating to keep it going.”

2023 Recap

Despite Canadian wildfire smoke making its way to Hockessin, 245 people registered to run and raise money for an event the community will enjoy. Out of those who registered, 175 managed to gather at Tweeds Park, making their way from PA, Maryland, and even Michigan, to run the race. The Firecracker Pump N’ Run saw 19 registrants, two of whom were able to knock 15 minutes off their run time, putting up 30 reps each! Check out some of the top results from this year:

5k for Fireworks


  • Overall Champion: Sean Coleman 19:27
  • 2nd Overall Male: Mike Janis 19:37
  • 3rd Overall Male: Gage Stefanick 20:04


  • 1st Overall Female: Zuleyka Martinez 22:44
  • 2nd Overall Female: Isabelle Daniel 23:19
  • 3rd Overall Female: Angelica Reyes 24:35
Firecracker Pump n’ run


  • Overall Champion: Jorge Maldonado 10:40
  • 2nd Overall Male: Michael Reilly 14:43
  • 3rd Overall Male: Jim Besten 17:24


  • 1st Overall Female: Andrea Bradley 10:46
  • 2nd Overall Female: Sandra Maldonado 12:26
  • 3rd Overall Female: Kaitlin Reilly 25:36

According to Personal Trainer Jen Besten, the HAC Run Club itself saw more than 50 past and present members participate in this community event. Before the race, you could see the camaraderie among HAC and community members, taking pictures together, talking, and laughing. The fundraiser provides a reason for friends to return and do something they enjoy for a worthy cause.

No matter how many times the baton is passed, no matter how many people get to be inducted as the new planners of the community fireworks, as long as there are people eager to see the fireworks each year, the show will go on. Still, the success of the event each year is never a guarantee. The tradition has only continued for so many years because of the volunteerism and financial support of individuals and businesses throughout Hockessin. Though the second annual 5K for Fireworks has only just concluded, Mike Smith is actively seeking sponsors for 2024. “If you have a business or work for a business that likes to give back, here’s a really fun way you can have 100% of the proceeds go to community impact.”

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