Our sense of nostalgia is notorious for casting a rosy glow over our memories of “the way things used to be” that isn’t always supported by history. Nonetheless, there are some things, like candy bars, that really were bigger and better and longer-lasting in the Good Old Days. Judging by the decreasing turnout at New Paltz’s Fourth of July festivities these past few years, and the grumblings that folks seated in the County Fairgrounds couldn’t see the fireworks very well behind the treeline that separated them from the staging area across the road, one might think that the Good Old Days came to an end when community activist Josh Honig stopped organizing the event in 2007 after a seven-year stint.
All that is about to change this July 7, says Honig, who’s back in the saddle again by popular demand and working overtime to ensure an extravaganza that will be better than ever for 2012. “They needed somebody with some experience doing it,” Honig relates. “People asked me if I could come back on and pull it together in a short period of time.”
He agreed, but quickly found his hands full. “The fireworks fund was depleted. Things were just not in place. There were no records of the last few years. We had no idea who the vendors were. We really had to backtrack.”
Honig’s first strategic move was to recruit the volunteer assistance of PDQ’s Craig Shankles, who “did an amazing job of fundraising” and reaching out to donors in the community. “We wanted to double what was done last year in terms of the amount of fireworks, which means a lot more funds to raise,” says Honig. Besides the Town of New Paltz, major sponsors for the event lined up as of this writing are ShopRite, Ulster Savings Bank, the Kempner Corporation and Joe and Olana O’Connor.
“The next most important thing was to contract for the fireworks. It’s my goal to make it a great show — better than it has been for the last few years. It always used to be the biggest family show in New Paltz,” he continues. “I also strive to make it a safe show. We’ve already arranged for the police and fire and emergency services to be out there, ready for any problems that may arise.”
Part of those safety considerations involves moving the fireworks launch site “higher up on the hill” and further away from the spectators — which also serves the purpose of enhancing the visibility of the sky show. Honig is bringing back a fireworks staging company with whom he has had a very satisfactory relationship in past years, Legion Fireworks, and the resulting performance should be both longer in duration and higher in altitude than those of recent years. “Nobody’s view will be obstructed,” he promises.
The gates at the Ulster County Fairgrounds on Libertyville Road will open at 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 7. Celebrants can bring a picnic or purchase refreshments from a variety of food vendors, ranging from traditional fair fare like burgers and hot dogs to falafel and vegetarian sesame noodles from Main Course, or jerk chicken and beef patties from Jamaica Choice Caribbean Cuisine. Big City Concessions will supply fried Oreos, fried candy bars, funnel cakes and lemonade; ShopRite will be selling drinks, snacks and that obligatory Fourth of July accessory for kids, Glow-Sticks.