Celebrate Independence Day in New Paltz and elsewhere

New Paltz fireworks (Photo by Lauren Thomas)

New Paltz Fireworks, July 5

Independence Day is nigh. It’s time for you to make your plans to catch the best fireworks displays and other holiday-related activities in the vicinity for the week that includes the Fourth of July.

’Twas a near miss for 2019, as previously reported in these pages, but New Paltz’s annual community fireworks at the Ulster County Fairgrounds almost didn’t happen. Except for a little money left over in an escrow account from years past, the Town of New Paltz no longer funds the event. Nor is there a municipal employee whose job includes organizing it.

Into the breach this year stepped Dr. Lori Morris, who has been a member of the volunteer fireworks committee “on and off for almost 20 years,” she says. “When I read in the paper that the fireworks might not happen, I was very upset.”
Of the three people who showed up to the initial organizing meeting, one dropped out almost immediately. A second did “a lot of work up front” before being sidelined by health issues. As a result, says Morris, “I pretty much did everything this year.”


Her work paid off, however. There will be fireworks. The New Paltz Fireworks will take place on Friday evening, July 5, thanks primarily to major donations from Shop-Rite, the New Paltz Police Benevolent Association, the Devine Agency, Green Mountain Energy and the Copeland Funeral Home. There were some smaller cash contributions as well, fielded by Mike Beck of P&G’s, who serves as treasurer of the New Paltz Community Foundation. Parking-lot volunteers will be provided as usual by the New Paltz youth program.

Weather permitting, the gates of the fairgrounds will open at 5 p.m. Those who plan to arrive early might want to plan to bring a picnic supper and buy desserts on-site, as, according to Morris, “The food vendors are a little sparse this year.” Shop-Rite will be selling hot dogs, but otherwise most of the fair fare available will be sweets such as ice cream and fried dough. 

There will be plenty of activities for children, including a bouncy house with a slide, an obstacle course and a zero-gravity game. Admission to the event is free, but Girl Scouts will be making their way through the crowd with collection buckets for the event. “If people put in ten bucks, we’ll have fireworks next year,” Morris notes. “If they put in one dollar, we’re done.”

Live music gets underway at 6:45 p.m. The opening act, Wind and Stone, is a first-timer for this event. Morris characterizes the New Paltz-based band’s music as “mellow folk/rock with beautiful vocals.” Later on, fireworks favorite Soul Purpose will take over and get the dancers on their feet with New Orleans funk, soul and R & B tunes. They’ll crank it up once more when the sky display is over, encouraging attendees to linger and avoid the crush of traffic on Libertyville Road. “That was a good plan when we came up with that one,” Morris observes.

The actual fireworks begin when it’s dark enough, which this time of year is around 9:15 or 9:30 p.m. The rain date for the New Paltz fireworks is Sunday, July 7.

Want to check out some other fireworks shows? Check out our regional guide.

Other local Independence Day festivities

Highland, July 5

The Town of Lloyd will be holding its annual free fireworks event on the same night as New Paltz: Friday, July 5 from 6 to 10 p.m. It takes place at the town field in the Highland hamlet. Parking for out-of-towners is available in the Lombardi municipal lot adjacent to the Methodist Church at the corner of Main Street and Vineyard Avenue, although, says Kate Jonietz, secretary to the town supervisor, “Most people walk.”

As of presstime, a live band had not yet confirmed its commitment to perform at the Highland fireworks; but if they fall through, “We will have a deejay,” according to Jonietz. Food vendors on-site will be offering hamburgers and hot dogs, fried dough, nachos, popcorn and cotton candy. Activities for children will include a bounce castle, games and face-painting. Bushiken Karate will give martial arts demonstrations.

Walkway over the Hudson, July 4

If your ideal time to enjoy Independence Day fireworks is on the actual Fourth of July, you should act now to get your wristband for admission to the City of Poughkeepsie’s display over the Hudson River, to be viewed from the Walkway over the Hudson State Historic Park. The park will end its daytime hours at 4 p.m., clearing the bridge for event setup and safety preparations. The walkway will reopen at both ends, to those with valid wristbands only, beginning at 7 p.m. and remain open for one hour following the conclusion of the fireworks, set to launch between 9 and 9:30 p.m. (Friday, July 5 is the designated rain date.)

Attendees may bring lawn chairs, to be set up in specific viewing areas along the south side of the bridge. No pets, bikes, skates, skateboards, hoverboards, fireworks, glass, firearms, alcohol or smoking will be permitted. It’s a good idea to bring a flashlight, though. Photographers using tripods are asked to set them up away from congested areas. Rest rooms and food and beverage concessions will be available at both ends of the bridge; do plan to carry out your own trash. The elevator from the Poughkeepsie waterfront will not be in operation during this event.

Fireworks on the walkway always sell out, so get your tickets ASAP. Admission to the July Fourth fireworks spectacular 2019 costs $12.50 for adults and youth aged 11 and up, $10 for seniors, veterans and Friends of the Walkway members. Kids aged 10 and under get in free, but must preregister. Proceeds from ticket sales help fund fireworks, emergency services and Walkway programs.
Advance tickets can be purchased in person at the walkway pavilions and at Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie and Wappingers Falls up until July 2, and online at https://walkway.org/4th-of-july-fireworks-spectacular.

Parking on the Ulster County side of the walkway is available at the Hudson Valley rail-trail parking lot, located on Haviland Road in Highland, and along the south side of Haviland Road. The Town of Lloyd police will close Haviland Road when it’s full, so go early and enjoy the sunset views of the Hudson while you’re waiting for the more explosive sort of sky show.

Reading of the Declaration of Independence, Rosendale, July 4

Fireworks are fun, and intended to instill some degree of patriotic fervor, but it’s too easy in our busy modern world to forget the bloody price that the fledgling USA paid to gain its independence from Britain. By way of a reminder of what Independence Day is really all about, each year on the morning of the actual Fourth, the Rosendale Theatre plays host to a free public reading, co-sponsored by the Bluestone Press, of the document that started it all, the Declaration of Independence. “At this time when various forces find reasons to divide us, it is critical that we highlight those things that unite us as Americans,” notes Ed Schoelwer, the Rosendale Theatre Collective’s programming committee chair.

Beginning at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, July 4, 20 community members – civic and business leaders, students, teachers, artists – will take turns reading passages from this document that changed the world, led by Lori Childers and Jerry Herman. “They read it several times through,” explains Rosendale Theatre managing director Ann Citron. “They actually read the signatures, and it’s always very moving.” This year’s event will be especially poignant for those who knew longtime RTC board member and Theatre volunteer Anita Williams Peck, who died this past January and was an enthusiastic organizer and perennial participant in the annual reading.

At the conclusion of the reading of the declaration, Maitreya Motel, the young daughter of RTC board member Carrie Wyckoff, will read “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’ poem that welcomes new immigrants at the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Live music, coffee and a breakfast/birthday cake will be served up following the readings. The Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale, and there’s plenty of parking in the rear of the building.