The Kiwanis Club of Saugerties has passed the baton of coordination of the community’s Fourth of July festivities to the Saugerties Lions Club this year. Although the long-standing ceremony will go largely unchanged, the transfer is significant; after 34 years of hosting the festivities, Kiwanis members could no longer handle the event alongside their ever-growing list of community involvements.
“We put the word out around September of last year that we were looking for someone else to run the event,” said Kiwanis member Jack Wilsey. “The Lions Club has agreed to take the ball and run with it and that’s a good thing — we didn’t want to see the Fourth of July not continue.”
Wilsey attributed the group’s heavy workload, among other initiatives, to the Garlic Festival; although the function only spans a weekend in September each year, Kiwanis members have been meeting year-round since they took on the event in the nineties to bring it all together.
Before the 1979 conception of the Saugerties Kiwanis chapter, Independence Day festivities were put on by the long-gone Saugerties United States Junior Chamber, Jaycees for short. (Among prominent Jaycees were industrialist Howard Hughes and tech billionaire Bill Gates.) After a brief interlude during which the Dutchmen baseball team presided over the summer staple, the Kiwanis took over in 1983.
This year’s fireworks are slated for approximately 9:30 p.m. on Independence Day after a Saugerties Stallions home game at Cantine Memorial Field that begins at 6 p.m. Allen Carney, president of the Lions Club, characterized the in-the-works evening as a “family fun-filled night for sure,” which will include “free hot dogs, peanuts and Cracker Jack.”
The Lions are one of the oldest service clubs in the community, active since 1932. Their other annual initiatives include a November auction, an Easter egg hunt and a June golf tournament to fund Saugerties High college scholarships. Their latest initiative is the Lions KidSight Vision program, which provides free vision screening to children up to 6 years old to detect vision disorders at an early age. The club also contributes to, among a litany of other local funds, the Saugerties Toy Store, the Mum Festival, the Saugerties Fire Department Candy Fund and the Sawyer Foundation Holiday in the Village Toy Give Away.
“The Lions Club would like to thank the Kiwanis for their past years of hard work, dedication and service in organizing Saugerties’ Fourth of July Festivities,” said Carney.
The Kiwanis will continue to finance the event, alongside Sawyer Motors, Naccarato Insurance Agency and the Saugerties Stallions.