Fourth of July Committee Previews 2016 Plans

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Fourth of July Committee held a nearly two-hour public forum on Tuesday night, presenting its plans for the 2016 Fun on the Fourth celebration and seeking feedback from the public.

More than 35 residents — including current Fourth of July Committee members, representatives from participating non-profit organizations, and abutters — attended the forum in the Town Hall’s auditorium.

Scott Garrant, Chairman of the Fourth of July Committee, gave a detailed presentation of his group’s proposal, and then called on more than a dozen audience members, who peppered Garrant and town officials with questions, comments and suggestions.  Garrant was joined by Town Manager Jeff Hull, Police Chief Michael Begonis, and Fire Chief Rick McClellan.

Garrant and his organization will be in front of the Wilmington Board of Appeals next Wednesday, January 13 with a request obtain a special permit to hold the carnival in the Fourth of July Building’s parking lot.  The Board denied a similar request in 2013.

Key points from Garrant’s nearly 20-minute presentation include:

  • The celebration was poorly attended in 2013 when the event was held at the Town Common without a carnival.
  • The celebrations in 2014 and 2015 were staged at the Shriners Auditorium.  The committee believes the event’s “hometown feel” no longer existed and overall attendance was down.  “The celebration staged at the Shriners is not our celebration.”  The committee feels there is a huge public demand to return the entire celebration to the Town Common area.
  • The high school parking lot was explored as a potential location for the carnival, but the baseball field’s outfield would have also needed to be used due to space constraints.  The field has a leeching field under it and would not be able support the weight of the rides.
  • As a result, the Committee would like to hold the carnival in the Fourth of July Building’s Parking Lot.
  • The celebration will be held from Wednesday, June 29 through Sunday, July 3, with Monday, July 4 as a rain date.
  • Fireworks will be shot from the grass practice field on the Wildwood Street-side of the high school campus.  (Later in the meeting, it was noted that there would only be ONE night of fireworks.)
  • The committee has been using 6″ firework shells for several years, but may be forced to go with slightly smaller 5″ shells due to safety zone regulations.
  • Non-profit booths will be on the actual Town Common.
  • All parking (including handicap parking) will be at the high school, which has 173 available spaces.  There will be satellite buses to and from parking lots around town on the fireworks night.
  • During the celebration, Middlesex Avenue will be closed at Adams Street.  Drury Lane will be closed at Glen Road, thus closing off School Street.  The areas will be posted “residents only” and will be manned.  Residents and visitors of residents will receive placards.
  • Police officers will be staged in the carnival and around the carnival area — in foot, in cars, and on bikes.
  • The carnival typically has 18 rides.  This year, it will have 15 rides.
  • The carnival typically has 19 food/game booths.  This year, it will have 14.
  • The set up will be overseen by the Wilmington Fire Department.  If clearances, walkway access, and emergency access can’t be maintained, the number of attractions will be reduced even further. A 20-foot fire lane is maintained in the plans.
  • Once the rides and booths are in the place, the state will conduct a safety inspection of the site.
  • In the past, the carnival has been open until 11pm each night.  This year, the carnival will remain open until 11pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but will close earlier at 10pm on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • The kiddie and quieter rides are proposed for along School Street and Middlesex Avenue.  Closed rides, which generate less noise, will be positioned behind the Fourth of July building, to provide somewhat of a buffer to Powderhouse Circle.
  • Portable toilets will be provided near the Fourth of July building and emptied daily.  The Fourth of July building’s restrooms will be designated handicap bathrooms.
  • The Committee has contractual control over the music and horns from the carnival.  The horn will be disconnected.  When the bands perform on the Common, the carnival’s music will be shut off entirely.
  • Lights and sound from the carnival will be directed away from the residents on School Street and Powderhouse Circle.
  • The carnival company (Fiesta) will provide the names and social security numbers of all staff members to the Wilmington Police.  The police will conduct background checks and can prohibit any of the carnival’s staff members from working.  The carnival also conducts CORI checks.
  • Wilmington Police Department will have a trailer inside the carnival.
  • Carnival staff can only break-down equipment from 8am to 8pm.
  • No one from the carnival can sleep on site.  One security person stays on site overnight.
  • The Knights of Columbus Hall will be used in the case of inclement weather for dinners and concerts.  The High School could be used a fallout shelter in the case of a sudden weather event.
  • Garrant concluded his remarks: “We realize this location is not ideal.  We’ve reached the point, however, where it is here or it is nowhere.”
  • Garrant also addressed false allegations and against him and his wife and attacks on his committee’s integrity that were made in an unsigned letter that was anonymously delivered to residents of the Swain School area.

Wilmington Apple will report tomorrow on what the members of the public who attended the forum had to say!

Watch the entire meeting, courtesy of Wilmington Community Television, below:

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