New Paltz and Highland celebrate Independence Day (with photo gallery)

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Photos by Lauren Thomas


The New Paltz fireworks brought in thousands of people to watch the night sky light up at the Ulster County Fairgrounds this past Saturday night in honor of Independence Day. Although it was a scorcher of a day and things got off to a slow start, by 8 p.m. the fields were overflowing with fireworks-loving folk and families camped out to enjoy free music, dancing and of course the extravaganza in the sky.

The bands played, including Grenadilla, a family-oriented band with South American influences; K.J. Denhert, a world-renowned jazz guitarist; followed by the band Soul Purpose, which is known for its blues, soul and Motown. A troupe of young dancers who were part of the New York Conservancy for the Arts also performed.

“The dance troupe made my heart leap,” said New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet, noting one young girl who just “danced the night away. It’s such a homegrown and family-orientated event.”


“Explosions in the sky are as American as apple pie,” said attendee Jesse Chance.

“I really enjoy celebrating our nation with all the walks of life that make up our community,” said David DeLeo.

Jonnie Witter was the emcee, and Zimet and councilwoman Kitty Brown each read passages from the Declaration of Independence at 7 p.m. to get people in the patriotic spirit.

“I became involved with the fireworks as a PiG [Participation in Government student] when I was a senior at New Paltz High School in 2006,” said Steve Warren, the chair of the Independence Day Celebration. “It’s just so rewarding to see our community come out and celebrate our nation, our town in such a beautiful venue.”

As it has been for almost two decades, ShopRite in New Paltz was the largest sponsor of the free community event, also providing water and snacks to eventgoers. “We couldn’t’ do it without them,” said Zimet. “They’ve been there since Day One, and are always willing to help support such an important local tradition.”

Carol Connelly, the secretary to the supervisor, who was one of the major organizers of the event, noted that Ulster Savings Bank was another major sponsor, and thanked “all of our wonderful, generous local businesses who helped make this happen. We could not do it without them, as the event costs approximately $15,000.” ++


Watermelon, shish kebab, Motown covers, sack races, ice cream and glow sticks all greeted the crowds at the Town of Lloyd’s Independence Day extravaganza last Friday.

Kids ran and played, families gathered on the grass, sitting on chairs or blankets, while the brave and foolhardy jumped their brains out in the bouncy house. All of this, of course, was a part of Kate Jonietz’s plan.

“Everything we do seems to build from year to year,” said Jonietz, with the town’s Events Committee. The whole rustic feel of an old-school American Fourth of July was dreamed up by the event organizers. They wanted to appeal to a sense of nostalgia.

This year, Highland’s fireworks moved inland, because in 2012 the town had teamed up with the City of Poughkeepsie, across the Hudson River, to put on a joint fireworks display. Highlanders had watched the fireworks from the Bob Shepard Highland Landing Park last year.

But because the park is under construction this year, Lloyd had to go it alone. But that’s not to say the small town didn’t pull in a lot of interest in its pyrotechnics display. Lloyd Police estimated that about 4,000 people attended the fireworks this year.

Crowds filled most of Town Field behind the Methodist Church, spilled over nearly all the way into the field behind Highland Middle School.

Supervisor Paul Hansut said he was pretty pleased with the event, which he felt was family friendly.

“It’s a great event,” Hansut said.