July 03--NEW BRITAIN -- Buoyed by big contributions from community organizations and philanthropists, the annual Great American Boom festival and fireworks show will take place July 5.
The financially ailing city once again has scaled back the schedule of activities, but will still put on several hours of entertainment at Stanley Quarter Park capped by a full-scale fireworks show, officials said.
Carnival games, strolling clowns and magicians, pony rides and micro-derby car races are scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at the park. Live music by Latanya Farrell and the Bookman Styles Band will begin at 6, and food vendors will be selling refreshments throughout the evening.
"This is a great opportunity to have a picnic in the park, and enjoy a pre-fireworks concert," Parks and Recreation Director Bill DeMaio said.
The fireworks show is expected to begin around 9:15 p.m.
As in recent years, the city has had to turn to private sources to help pay for the event.
This year, the American Savings Foundation and the Community Foundation of Greater New Britain each kicked in $10,000, and local businesses and individuals so far have contributed another $5,000. That's enough to cover about half of the costs, with the city paying the rest, said John Healey, chief of staff for Mayor Erin Stewart.
This will be the 21st edition of the Great American Boom, a tradition that's been consistently popular with residents but increasingly difficult to fund.
In recent years, New Britain has struggled to keep from stopping it altogether. Then-Mayor Timothy Stewart canceled the show in 2011 as city government braced for layoffs and instituted a hiring freeze. The American Savings Federation put up enough money that he reversed his decision and authorized a shortened version of the festival.
A wristband for unlimited rides costs $5, but that revenue just helps to pay for the festival performers and equipment. Each year, the city faces a bill of about $50,000 for the fireworks show and overtime expenses for police, fire marshals, parks workers and public works employees.
The festival used to run all day, but in recent years was reduced to three or four hours to save money. This year there will be giant trampolines, interactive inflatables, pony rides, a petting zoo, face painting and an artist doing caricatures.
The city said this year it will have the largest group of food vendors for any Great American Boom. There will be hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, steak and cheese grinders, fried shrimp, fried clams, buffalo wings, Thai appetizers, fried dough, funnel cakes, fried desserts, Italian ice, kettle corn, ice cream, non-alcoholic pina coladas, slushies and more.
Parking will be at Central Connecticut State University. The city advises attendees to arrive early and bring blankets, lawn chairs, and bug spray. For full details visit nbparksnrec.org.
This year's show had been scheduled for July 4, but was postponed because of weather.
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