When you watch a local high school track and field meet, a familiar face starts almost every event. We introduce you to a veteran official celebrating a milestone this year, in a story seen only on 13 News.
Fred Pelley hails from Atlatnic City, New Jersey. His journey to Rockford began as a military brat.
"Great Lakes Naval Training Center where my Dad was teaching in the Navy. I went to Waukegan."
That's where he landed on the track.
"Lucky enough, I anchored a mile relay that was fourth in state in 1963."
He transitioned from athlete to official when he landed a job at Harlem.
"I worked for Bob Papich, everyone knows Bob, he was wonderful for the Park District. I was working over at Harlem with the summer track program."
That's when he picked up the starting gun.
"I figured heck, it'd be a whole lot cheaper if I started the track meets instead of paying somebody."
Fred's bet paid off.
"Took the test and passed it and the rest is history."
40 years of history to be exact. Athletes and coaches shower him with praise, but Fred shrugs it off.
"I didn't do the job, I just fire the gun. The kids are wonderful. Just watching all these kids run, it's pretty neat."
His mission is simple.
"We want every kid to have the same exact chance."
Just as he felt in high school, the 71-year old retiree is lucky to do what he does.
"It's kind of goosebumpy you'll be able to be there and make a difference for the kids. They want to do the best job they can, I want to do all i can do to help them. It's a real thrill to come and be part of their lives," says Fred.
Fred Pelley hails from Atlantic City, New Jersey. He now calls Rockford, Illinois home, providing the soundtrack on the track, and sending athletes to the finish line and beyond.