In many communities, parades and fireworks displays are a staple of the Fourth of July, the day Americans celebrate not only the country’s independence but its foundational ideas. But Americans gathering to celebrate life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and rebellion over unjust taxation may not be doing so for free.
Municipal celebrations, even when put on by private organizations, often require city services, such as fire and police, which residents often pay for through taxes. That is the case for Enfield, which hosts an annual three-day Fourth of July celebration, occurring this year on July 7 through 9. The event is put on by the Fourth of July Celebration Committee, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and features such attractions as a parade, fireworks, a car show, craft and vendor fairs, activities for children, and more.
To pay for the festival, which is run by volunteers, the committee solicits donations. One of those donors is the town of Enfield.
According to town manager Ellen Zoppo-Sassu, the town contributes to the event, which she described as Enfield’s “premiere community celebration” by providing support from police, Emergency Medical Services (EMS), and the town’s public works. Support from the departments begins with pre-event staging, continues with police and EMS presence during the event, and breakdown and clean up after it ends.
Zoppo-Sassu notes that overtime from these services is charged to one line item in the town’s budget, called the Celebrations line item. “Last year, the Fourth had approximately $54,000 charged to it. We are, in turn, listed as an event sponsor.” said Zoppo-Sassu. Town staff also attend some planning meetings that take place prior to the event, but the costs of this are not separated from the Celebrations line item since, according to Zoppo-Sassu, “we typically meet with all groups seeking to sponsor events to ensure a smooth path.”
She also notes that workforce issues, competing demands, and reduced budgets have been a challenge in some cases.
The Thompsonville Fire Department also participates in the event and is listed as a sponsor but belongs to an independent taking district outside the town, which does not have access to their costs.
The town also does not charge permit fees for the event. Instead, it applies for permits on behalf of participating entities, like vendors. “We look at the event as an economic driver for people to visit Enfield, and potentially spur economic spinoff for other businesses in the area.” said Zoppo-Sossu.
Zoppo-Sossu also noted that most of the activities at the celebrations, besides food and wares offered for sale by vendors, are free, which, she noted, makes the celebration “an open and inclusive event for all residents regardless of socioeconomic status.”