Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rural towns fall back on charity to celebrate July 4

The latest victims of the economic crisis are communities forced to cancel Fourth of July festivities across the country, particularly in small towns with limited resources. Eli Saslow reports for The Washington Post that more than 40 communities have already called off events, but some citizens in Shippensburg, Pa., are not letting the traditions end without a fight.

Every year since 1940, the town of 5,600 people has celebrated its self-proclaimed “Best Day of Summer” with free soft drinks, local high school football and lots of fireworks. But this year, the events would cost $5,300, even at a special discounted rate, and that may be too much in the wake of budget cuts and lost sponsors. Instead, Kip Fordney, head of the parks and recreation department, is going door to door to raise money for the fireworks. The nostalgia, patriotism and town pride keep her going. "It's like Woodstock," she told Saslow of the annual festivities. "Everybody's happy, and everybody's a little bit wild."

What was once seen as a civic necessity is increasingly being viewed as wasteful, but Saslow writes that the elimination of the Fourth of July is especially painful in small towns. “Unlike in Washington, where tens of thousands will fight for position on the Mall, these are places that represent what Independence Day means in most of America -- a hillside covered with friends and neighbors, a few dozen fireworks set off by the volunteers from the fire department, a sweet, small-town sense of community on a warm summer night.” (Read more)

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