GASPORT – Fireworks will be exploding in the skies over a new venue on July 4, as the long-popular Royalton Ravine event shifts to Hartland Town Park on Ridge Road this year.
Organizers hope the move will accommodate more people and make parking, as well as exiting the festivities, easier. And the event will start earlier in the day, with plenty of live music and activities for the kids.
“The last couple of years, it’s been pushed back further and further and taken the kids’ events out of it,” said organizer Matt Snell, of the 4th of July Committee. “We want to bring these things back to get families together.
“The reason we’re moving is that we outgrew the ravine,” Snell said. “There wasn’t enough parking and the grounds didn’t allow us to expand. We don’t mean to cause a stir in moving this, we just want to benefit future events and allow this to grow.”
Snell said the celebration originated with Tom Brigham in 2002 at the Royalton Ravine.
“It was a very small, family-focused event,” he said. “Maybe they had 1,000 people, but then it grew and grew each year until it was calculated that we had up to 10,000 people. We just outgrew the ravine.”
Snell said he also wanted to give credit to Jeff Brown, “who has held it together for the past 10 years.”
There will be plenty to do, see, listen to and eat at the holiday celebration.
Gates open at 3 p.m. for the celebration.
Although it’s not affiliated with the park event, the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company will offer a chicken barbecue at noon on July 4 on the fire company grounds at 8945 Ridge Road, according to Fire Chief Archie Ames III. The grounds are in front of Hartland Town Park. Tickets are $9 at the door and proceeds benefit the fire company.
Shortly after 3 p.m., Hartland Town Supervisor W. Ross Annable will help kick off the event by dedicating the park’s athletic fields in his late father’s name. William “Bill” Annable died in 2013 and served as Hartland town supervisor for 34 years.
“Athletics were a big part of his life,” Annable said of his father. “He earned an athletic scholarship to UB and was a physical education and science teacher (for 31 years). He also coached basketball, cross country and baseball for years.”
“He wouldn’t have wanted us to name this after him, but this park was a project of his,” Annable added. “My dad wanted lights for the fields and got them in his final term, but they went up after he died.”
Annable said when the 4th of July Committee approached him about moving the celebration to Hartland, he knew the park could handle the crowd, having successfully hosted the town’s bicentennial celebration there in 2012.
“One of the committee’s biggest concerns was the availability of on-site parking and we have quite a bit,” said Annable. He added that parking will be prohibited on Route 104 and officers will direct traffic.
The July 4 celebration boasts a variety of live music. Mike Hartman and the Good Ol Boys will take the stage following the dedication ceremony, followed by Last Call from 5:15 to 7 p.m. The headliner is Rocket 88, which will play from 7:15 p.m. to around 10 p.m.
Meanwhile, there will be plenty of activities for kids beginning around 4 p.m., Snell said. He said arts and crafts, face-painting, games and a clown will keep them busy.
“We have a baseball field to use, too, and I’d like to get a pick-up kickball game going,” he added.
In addition, the bloodhound unit of the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office will be offering demonstrations.
And attendees should bring their appetites. Snell said a full complement of fair-type foods will be sold, from ice cream to burgers. He noted that no alcohol will be sold. But he said the big attraction will be local sweet corn.
Harris Farms are donating what promises to be “the first local sweet corn” of the year.
And, of course, the topper will be the 10 p.m. fireworks show, which, Snell said, “has always been the best around.”
“And we’ve added to it, so this year’s will be the largest yet,” he said, predicting it will run close to a half-hour. “It’s just a great show.”
The committee is charging $5 for parking this year to help defray the purchase of fireworks and rental costs.
“This is run on 100 percent donations – there is zero (monetary) contribution from the municipalities,” Snell said. “We have volunteers from All Metal Works of Gasport who write letters to local businesses, letting them know we need their support.”
A number of local individuals and businesses have helped through the years, including Mike Drum of Drum Oil, who has provided physical help and monetary donations. He will also help deliver the entertainment this year, Snell said, as a member of Last Call.
“We’ve also had a lot of support from the Hartland Department of Public Works, who made the grounds beautiful,” said Snell. “The area fire companies and Tri-Town Ambulance are also a big help.”
Snell said the group is always looking for volunteers, and anyone interested may contact him at 870-3379.