PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Hundreds of running enthusiasts started their Independence Day celebrations early Monday morning in downtown Peoria.

The Peoria Jaycees hosted their 41st annual Firecracker 5000 race/walk. It’s a 3.1-mile run/walk along downtown Peoria’s riverfront.

According to the event chair and board member of the Peoria Jaycees, Barbara Toohill said around 350 runners and walkers showed up Monday morning to partake in the race. Toohill said the race also serves as a fundraiser every year.

“Every year we pick a different charity or group to support through the proceeds of the race, this year we’re supporting the Maggie Bertram Foundation which seeks funding to keep fine arts in schools,” Toohill said.

Toohill said fundraising is the main value of the Peoria Jaycees and all their events have a philanthropic tie to them.

“Fundraising is at the heart of the Jaycees’ mission, so all of our projects involve community partners; it’s kind of vital to how we live and breathe,” Toohill said.

Participants can either run in hopes of winning a trophy in the race, or they can walk the 3.1 miles with their families.

The first person to cross the finish line was Thomas Harmon.