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Town Ready for Bang-Up Weekend of Fireworks and Fun

But at least some Montclair residents are calling for a vehicle-free parade Monday.

After a lot of municipal wrangling, the July 4 fireworks will happen this year. Indeed, Montclair residents will be treated to two days of festivities on Sunday and Monday: the fireworks on July 4 and a parade and picnic on July 5.

But some residents have asked for a vehicle-free "eco-friendly" parade this year.

An effort spearheaded by Pat Kenschaft, a local environmental activist, seeks to limit or eliminate cars and trucks—including fire trucks—from the July 4 parade. And many residents agree.

"Let's save money and not be in denial about the Gulf Coast and oil," said resident Edie Locke in a letter to Mayor Jerry Fried. "The kids may not be thrilled, but what a great opportunity to send an important message to them. Everyone needs to lead by example now and we all need to make sacrifices."

Mayor Fried said he'd spoken with several people about the issue and believes it is an idea that should be considered for next year.

"I think an eco-friendly parade would be a great goal but I also believe that just scrapping the fire trucks without an alternative child-friendly option would create unnecessary conflict and also disappoint many," he said. "I haven't participated in the 'parade committee' but I suggest it be on their agenda."

Vehicles or no vehicles, many Montclair residents have been looking forward to this year's festivities, especially because they almost didn't happen. Citing fiscal constraints, town officials were close to canceling the fireworks when some Montclair residents protested. In an outpouring of community spirit, a grassroots movement to "keep the fireworks burning" was born.

Residents like Lynette and Paul Brubaker created a Web site, SaveTheCelebration.org, and community residents rallied 'round to preserve the much-loved tradition. In the end, the concerted community effort paid off and a compromise was reached between the Township, Montclair State University, Floyd Hall Enterprises, and the Town of Little Falls. 

In fact, in 2010, a year dominated by budget cuts and bleak financial news, just holding on to a "luxury" like pyrotechnics is a small victory. Some residents feel traditions like fireworks are worth fighting for because they bring communities together. Montclair resident and community activist George Prell understands the financial constraints—but he's a big fan of 4th of July fireworks, anyway. "Some people might call it a frill," he said, "and maybe it is... but we just enjoy it so much."

But for many towns across America, there was no choice. "Special events are on the chopping block," stated Rick Schuettler, Deputy Executive Director of the Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities. "Officials are looking at what they have to do to save money and jobs." Indeed, in many cities the economy is putting the fizzle on fireworks.

In the end, Montclair got lucky. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company sponsored a contest, "Bring Back the 4th," that awarded $10,000 to towns across America to help pay for fireworks. Thanks to the efforts of Montclair residents like PTA Council co-president Mary Beth Rosenthal (who sent out email blasts alerting residents to rally together and enter the contest) Montclair was one of 10 lucky municipalities that won. 

"I'm so proud to be part of a community that steps up to take care of our traditions," Rosenthal told Patch.

Though $10,000 still didn't cover the cost of everything involved (the fireworks, the security, transportation, and all the extras), the well-coordinated volunteer efforts made the difference. Joining the Brubakers and other Montclair residents, local contractor Gordon Keil spearheaded a fundraising effort to collect donations from local businesses and individuals. According to NorthJersey.com, they were able to raise an additional $22,000 - enough to make sure Montclair had its fireworks, a parade, and a picnic. 
 
So with all this community spirit at work, make sure you come out to celebrate!  The fireworks display will take place at Yogi Berra Stadium at Montclair State University on Sunday, July 4. Though no Jackals game is scheduled for that evening, gates will open at 7:30 pm for relaxation and refreshments. Fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. No food, beverages, or lawn chairs can be brought into the stadium. Montclair State University is providing FREE PARKING for the fireworks in the Carparc Diem deck, adjacent to Floyd Hall Arena. Any overflow parking will be directed to Lot 28 on the campus. (NOTE: Due to extensive construction in the parking lot vicinity, try to arrive early!)

The parade kicks off the following day at 11:00 a.m.  Starting on the corner of South Fullerton and Bloomfield, it proceeds down Midland Avenue, turns at Watchung Avenue, and heads over to Edgemont Park. There, residents are invited to picnic and play at Edgemont Park until about 3 p.m. Both events will take place rain or shine. For more information, please contact the Montclair Department of Parks and Recreation: 205 Claremont Avenue, 973-509-4915.

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