At least in 2014, Wilmington residents won't turn out to the town common for six days at the beginning of July to take in family fun, food, music, games or fireworks.
After discussions with Town Manager Jeffrey Hull concerning the feasibility of continuing the two nights of fireworks that has become tradition in Wilmington, the Fourth of July Committee voted last week to cancel all of the annual Fun on the Fourth festivities.
At Monday's board of selectmen meeting, both Hull and Fourth of July Committee Chairman Scott Garrant weighed in on the decision to cancel Fun on the Fourth in 2014.
Setting off the fireworks from the football field as has been done in past years could pose potential damage to the roof of the new Wilmington High School, as well as the artificial turf field and resurfaced track, according to Hull.
"Launching fireworks from the high school campus in 2014 presents significant risk to the artificial turf field, recently resurfaced track and possibly the high school roof," Hull said. "This location for 2014 is not a viable location."
Town leaders considered several alternative launch locations, according to Hull, including the high school baseball field, Glen Road fields, former Yentile Farm property and Silver Lake.
"Each town property had limitations including lack of parking, lack of appropriate viewing area, potential environmental concerns or lack of compliance with state fire marshal requirements," Hull said.
With payments of more than $1 million made for the installation of the artificial turf field and resurfacing of the track at Wilmington High School and $1.6 million for the roof of the new high school, Hull said he did not think it wise to subject these surfaces to risk of damage.
"Given the town is investing so much into the new high school and have had in prior years instances where material has come down onto the field, onto the track and onto the current high school roof and created some amount of damage, it's my estimation that location should not be used this year," Hull said.
Garrant said the Fourth of July Committee did not make the decision to cancel the 2014 Fun on the Fourth hastily, and did so with heavy hearts.
"The celebration is dear to each of the current 14 members of the committee and to those who preceded us on the committee," Garrant said.
The inability to hold the fireworks at the town common, coupled with the denial of a special permit last year to hold the annual Fun on the Fourth carnival, led the committee to cancel next year's festivities.
"We contemplated having an event at the common without the carnival and fireworks," Garrant said. "In our mind without those events, it's not a sustainable event."
In past years, funds made from the carnival would be put toward paying for the fireworks, according to Garrant.
Hull said town leaders explored the possibility of holding the fireworks displays at the Aleppo Shriners property at 99 Fordham Road, but the Fourth of July committee was not interested.
"The Shriners is not the town common," Garrant said. "It doesn't have the same sense of community the town common does. There are also logistical issues like parking and seating. All of that presumes The Shriners would have the facility available and would be open to hosting the event."
Hull said he is already working with the Fourth of July Committee to explore site options for hosting the fireworks displays in 2015, including the Shriners and the town Wildwood Street property.
"Clearly this is an event that has come to symbolize what Wilmington is about in terms of the spirit and hospitality of the community, and certainly it's my goal to see if the event can continue if not in 2014 in 2015," Hull said.
Selectmen Chairman Michael McCoy said he regretted not having Fun on the Fourth festivities returning in 2014, but agreed with Hull that the investment Wilmington taxpayers have made in the new high school is not worth jeopardizing.
"I have to agree we have a major investment in our new high school and football field," McCoy said. "I know some people are going to be very upset by it. I own a business in town and I hear all the time from people in town and in surrounding communities that they come to Wilmington for the Fourth of July."
Selectman Lou Cimaglia, also a member of the Fourth of July Committee, echoed Garrant's sentiment that the decision to cancel Fun on the Fourth was one made with much deliberation.
"The vote was taken after a lot of conversation, meetings and soul searching," Cimaglia said. "This is a very passionate town - a town that's very passionate about its patriotism. It's not a decision that was made lightly. We as a committee put a lot of thought into this."
Selectman Michael Newhouse said he was sorry to see Fun on the Fourth cancelled for 2014, but hoped more than a year would provide town leaders and the Fourth of July committee ample time to consider alternatives locations for fireworks in 2015.
"We need to look at alternative sites and I wouldn't presume to limit those alternatives," Newhouse said. "We all may get accustomed to a specific program but I think this town will celebrate the Fourth of July. This is a town that wears its patriotism on its sleeve."