BRATTLEBORO - This Friday's July Fourth festivities will be mixed with fundraising.
A financial solicitation is necessary, organizers say, if the Brattleboro tradition of more than four decades is to continue in its current form. That's in large part because the annual celebration is losing a major corporate sponsor as Entergy prepares to close its Vermont Yankee nuclear plant in Vernon.
Those attending the event won't be bombarded with solicitations, organizer Kevin O'Connor promised. But there will be requests for donations at the tail of Friday morning's parade and, later in the evening, during the fireworks display.
"We know several thousand people come to the parade, and we know several thousand people come to the park ... if everybody gave a dollar, that's several thousand dollars right there," O'Connor said.
"It's an opportunity for people to contribute in a small way, but collectively, to make a difference," he added.
The "By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth" event kicks off at 9:30 a.m. Friday with the Bill Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-Miler race. More information is available at www.redcloverrovers.com.
At 10 a.m., the parade commences. Traveling down Canal Street and up Main Street to the town Common will be approximately 50 marching units including bands from Brattleboro American Legion and Brattleboro Union High School. There also will be veterans, civic groups, youth groups and local personality Alfred Hughes Jr. "in his annual top-secret gown."
The festivities then move to Living Memorial Park, where the town Recreation and Parks Department offers a series of public concerts, sporting events and family activities, organizers said.
Offerings include Vermont's "American Pop" cover band from 5:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m.; children's entertainer T-Bone at 6:30 p.m.; and Brattleboro classic rockers Wyld Nightz Band from 7:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Also scheduled is a Small Fry baseball all-star game at 1:30 p.m.; a children's penny carnival with face painting and games from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.; and swim races at 3 p.m.
Park activities run from 1:30 p.m. to the start of the fireworks display at 9:30 p.m. The fireworks will be presented by Montpelier-based Northstar.
All of the day's events are free. Major donors include C&S Wholesale Grocers, G.S. Precision Inc., The Richards Group, Brattleboro Savings & Loan, the Holstein Association USA and Be Heard! Sound Productions.
The Fourth celebration's sponsorship dollars, however, are taking a big hit as the "longtime sole fireworks sponsor" -- Entergy -- is out of the picture after this year.
That's a big loss, as the fireworks cost about $6,000 -- almost half the event's entire budget. The question for 2015 will be, how much "Brattleboro Goes Fourth" can Brattleboro afford?
O'Connor noted that the citizens committee is a volunteer outfit with no office and no paid staff -- meaning the event, which dates to 1973, runs on donations.
"We're set for this year, but we won't have anything in the bank for next year," O'Connor said.
He said volunteers "really are going to be passing the hat at both the parade and the park" in an effort to drum up support.
"Whatever we bring in, in terms of money this year, will be what we can spend next year," he added. "We really need them to help us continue the tradition."
Tax-deductible donations also can be sent to "By the People: Brattleboro Goes Fourth," P.O. Box 1112, Brattleboro VT 05302.
Mike Faher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.