Fireworks a go this year in New Paltz, but more volunteers needed to sustain them

Siblings Carter, Camden and Kaylin Casterline had a great time romping around the fairgrounds during last year’s fireworks celebration in New Paltz. (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

The first tentative steps moving the Town of New Paltz’s fireworks show to a volunteer effort not dependent on taxpayer funding have been completed: two volunteers have stepped forward to help out, and planning has already begun to have a show using money previously raised. However, Lori Morris is quite clear that she and Rosalie Hasbrouck can’t raise enough money or keep the costs down low enough to continue the festivities without some help from their neighbors in New Paltz.

Fireworks used to be run by such a committee, but as members peeled away in recent years, it fell to one remaining person, Carol Connolly, who at that time was also confidential secretary to Supervisor Susan Zimet; and it was later passed down to Kathy Preston, confidential secretary to Supervisor Neil Bettez. Eyeing ways to keep the town budget in check as costs from multi-year leases and union contracts continue to rise, town officials opted to revert the fireworks to a fully-volunteer model. In this version, the full event costs must be raised by community members, including the explosives themselves, site rental, band fees and police overtime for traffic control. Recruiting volunteers the day of to set up the county fairgrounds and ask for donations at the gate could reduce the overall bill by a bit, but a year-round effort to raise money for the event is what’s needed to continue it, Morris believes.

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Morris and Hasbrouck have deep roots in building community here. Morris has been running the Halloween community band and Hasbrouck helps organize the Regatta.

Morris said that she decided to pitch in because fireworks have been part of New Paltz for the more than 30 years she’s been here, and she read a New Paltz Times article about the uncertain future of the event with concern. She remembers when they were set off over the tripping fields on campus, a time when community members gathered in the village’s heart to celebrate together. She’s served on the committee “off and on” for the past 15 years, and is willing to get back into it to keep them going.

Enough volunteers could mean just “paying someone to pick up garbage,” presuming visitors aren’t willing to leave no trace; the presence of police officers and rescue workers will not necessarily be volunteer, and that’s going to be part of what must be raised to continue the show into 2020 and beyond. All told, the free show costs $12,000 to pull off. Morris hopes that those who drop something in the bucket understand that digging deeper is what it’s going to take to keep the fireworks alive. She and Hasbrouck also plan on soliciting business donations. Long term, “We could really use help with raising funds.” Donations are being held through the New Paltz Community Foundation, and as such may be tax-deductible.

The date for this year’s show is Friday, July 5  with a rain date of Sunday, July 7. Anyone going to the show should expect a “similar experience” to that of recent years, with live music and, with any luck, some food trucks to help pass the time until it’s dark enough for the light show to begin.

Interested volunteers should send an e-mail to doctorlorimorris@gmail.com, while donations can be sent to the New Paltz Community Foundation at P.O. Box 1112, New Paltz, with “fireworks” in the memo to distinguish it from a general donation to the foundation.

Related:

Hudson Valley fireworks guide 2019 edition (with map)