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Bellingham Planning a Premier Celebration for July 4

Jun 26, 2014 02:08PM ● By Kenneth Hamwey

Donations from Charles River Bank, Nextera Energy, Republic Services, Rockland Trust and WS Development make the July 4th festivities possible.

Bellingham is ready to celebrate America’s 238th birthday on July 4, and the celebration promises to once again be one of the premier events in the area.

The festivities will include two concerts and a fireworks display. Velvet Skies, a Bellingham-based band, will provide music at 6:45 pm. At 8 pm, John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band of Rhode Island, which produced sound tracks for several movies—Eddie and the Cruisers and Rocky IV among them—will perform. At 9:30, the fireworks display will begin and will continue for 25 minutes.

The site, which will feature a variety of booths and a concession stand, will again be at the Memorial Middle School baseball field on Blackstone Street, where the stage will be located for both concerts. The turf field will be used only for people to view the fireworks.

“Residents and people from area towns usually start arriving at 5:30 pm,” said Town Administrator Denis Fraine. “Any visitors arriving around 7:30 pm. will be on hand for most of the events. Parking areas include the middle school and high school lots and one side of South Main Street (Rte. 126). There is no parking on Blackstone Street.”

Police and fire personnel will be on site throughout the evening along with the Parks and Public Works departments and Fraine, who coordinates and oversees all of the activities. “All of the departments conduct meetings right up to the day of the event,” said Deputy Fire Chief Mark Poirier, who plays a key role as the liaison with the state on fireworks regulations.

The July 4 celebration, which started in Bellingham 17 years ago, in 1997, would not be possible without the financial assistance of six sponsors: WS Development (owners and developers of the three shopping centers in the Hartford Ave./Route 495 area), Charles River Bank, Rockland Trust, Republic Trash Removal, American National Power (Maple Street plant) and Nextera Energy (Depot Street power plant). According to Fraine, the sponsors this year combined for $26,000 in contributions.

“When the Selectmen voted to start a July 4 celebration, a condition was that the event be privately funded,” Fraine noted. “What we have now is a celebration that our business community has put on for all our citizens. It’s truly a family affair.”

Two representatives of WS Development commented on how delighted they are that their company plays a role in assisting the town for July 4. “We’re pleased to help defray the cost,” said Robert Frazier, senior vice president of development. “We want to provide Bellingham with a first-class fireworks display, and we want to enhance this year’s celebration with lots of fun for all the citizens of Bellingham.” Ellyne Fleshner, the director of field management and marketing, said, “WS Development believes in the true spirit of community, and we’re happy to support all the cities and towns we’re involved with.”

Mike Tuite, an assistant vice president and manager of the Bellingham branch of Charles River Bank, emphasized the importance of serving a community. “We’re extremely pleased to be part of the Bellingham community,” he said. “We’re a community bank, and we’re happy to give back to the community because the people in Bellingham have welcomed us.”

There are rules that public safety officials will enforce. They include no grills or open flames, no fireworks or sparklers and no alcohol (if found, it will be confiscated). Also, no vendors are allowed. Booths on site will be strictly non-profit town organizations.

“The Friends of Music will once again run the concession stand, and again all of the food will be provided by Outback Steakhouse,” Fraine said. “Money collected for food purchases goes to the Friends of Music. Outback also provides the grills and the personnel to prepare the food.”

The Parks Department will handle the field set-up, provide trash barrels and work with the DPW on clean-up. The DPW will be responsible for parking, signs, and the placement of orange traffic barrels. A private company will supply portable toilets throughout the area.

Getting prepared for July 4 actually starts six months before the holiday. The process for filing the application for fireworks starts in January. After the filing, Poirier reviews it and sends it to the state. Long before any fireworks are ignited, the state fire marshal will review the grounds and decide on the necessary parameters. “When we agree,” Poirier said, “I notify the fireworks company, and when they arrive, we have a fire detail to monitor their set-up and safety precautions. We also make sure the launch tubes are properly set up.”

Ten additional firefighters of the 16 on duty for July 4 will be monitoring the display. Some will be on the high school roof, and others will be in the area dealing with any medical concerns or fire safety issues. Poirier emphasized that Station One in south Bellingham also will be staffed to respond quickly to any issues in that area.

All the planning and the attention to detail appear to be in order for another excellent July 4 extravaganza. Hopefully, rain won’t be a factor, but if it is, the rain date is July 5.
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