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July 3-4 event at park won't have midway

Cheektowaga town officials are declaring their independence from rowdiness at this year's Fourth of July festivities in Town Park.

On the recommendation of Police Chief David J. Zack, Town Board members agreed that the festival's midway of rides and games will be shelved this summer. The beer tent, bands, parade, fireworks and food stands will remain.

Zack made the suggestion after the 2011 event, where police were forced to deal with pedestrian congestion in the midway, fights and a lack of the family atmosphere that the town aims to promote.

The idea was revisited in recent weeks, and board members agreed with Zack's position. The midway had "become a nightmare," town officials said.

In his recommendation, Zack said the police remain mindful of the fatal May 31, 2011, shooting of Ira Watkins Jr., 19, who apparently tried mediating a dispute between rival gang members that erupted over a water balloon fight.

Dontre Jones, 18, of nearby Alexander Avenue, was charged in late February in connection with the Watkins slaying.

The town, according to police officials, wants to provide no such breeding ground for future violent activity. Eliminating an overcrowded and rowdy midway is one step, Zack said.

Deputy Town Supervisor Stanley J. Kaznowski III called the midway "not cost-effective," explaining that from strictly financial standpoint, ditching the midway is expected to save significant overtime costs in the Police Department.

"I got more input saying, 'It's great [that the midway is out],' " Kaznowski said. "We're trying to protect the residents and people coming to the park."

Kaznowski and Zack said this year's toned-down event is a test run.

"We'll gauge the response from the public," Kaznowski said.

The town, by resolution at its regular meeting Monday, unanimously approved setting the Independence Day Celebration in Cheektowaga for July 3-4 in Town Park.

On July 3, it will run from 5 to 11 p.m. On July 4, a noontime parade will proceed from Walden Avenue to Harlem Road, ending at the park. Food, beer and music will run all day, with fireworks at dusk.