(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer file photo)
(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer file photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- For the past 40 years Brattleboro has celebrated Independence Day with a full day's worth of activities.

Starting with a traditional parade up Main Street, followed by a full day at Living Memorial Park and capped with a fireworks display, the July 4th celebration has entertained thousands every year.

The July 4th celebration has been pulled off with a combination of volunteer hours and donations.

The volunteers are still around, and they are getting ready for this year's parade and fireworks, but unless some serious fundraising takes place next year's celebration could look very different.

The volunteer committee that runs the event, By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth, lost a major sponsor this year when Entergy Vermont Yankee said it would not be able to donate the $6,000 it has traditionally provided in light of the nuclear power plant's imminent shut down.

So By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth volunteer Kevin O'Connor said it will now be up to the people of Brattleboro to decide how much of an Independence Day celebration they want.

"We want to keep the tradition alive," O'Connor said. "We have the volunteers who are willing and ready to work, but we need the community to step up and donate so we can purchase fireworks. There just is not a single company in Brattleboro right now that can write us a check for $6,000."

To kick off the fundraising campaign By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth will hold a radiothon on Friday, June 13, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce on Main Street.

WTSA will broadcast from in front of the chamber and the committee is asking people to stop by and give what they can as they try to meet next year's goal to make sure there is fireworks show in 2015.

A fireworks show for the 4th of July must be purchased and paid for six months in advance and O'Connor said this year's show has already been paid for.

He said Entergy Vermont Yankee informed the committee in the spring that they will not be providing a check for the 2015 show and so O'Connor said the committee is starting now to get the word out and plan for next year.

"This is a volunteer committee and we simply don't have the means to make up that money," he said. "

The full day cost about $12,000, with the fireworks taking up about half the annual budget.

O'Connor said he and everyone else involved with the event are aware of the town's financial situation.

He said the committee is going to try to pare down its budget as much as possible but police coverage, insurance, bands and port-a-potties all require real cash.

When it comes to buying a fireworks show in the winter he said the committee is simply going to have to only purchase what it can afford.

"We need the community to donate what they can," he said. "The town has had an annual parade and fireworks since 1973 but this year, all of a sudden, we don't have about half our money so people are going to have to help if they want a show."

After this Friday's radiothon O'Connor said the committee is going to make a concerted effort to make sure people who come out on the fourth understand that anything they can do to help will go a long way toward ensuring there are fireworks in 2015.

If everyone who watches the fireworks this year gives a dollar or two, he said, there is a greater chance that there will be something to watch next year when they return.

"If people give $3,000, then we will buy $3,000 worth of fireworks," he said. "If we get no money, we'll say we've enjoyed the tradition but we can't continue. We are at the mercy of what the community can contribute. What we raise this year is what we will be able to do next year. That's the reality."

Money can also be sent to By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth, PO Box 1112, Brattleboro, Vt., 05302.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279.