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Fundraising fizzles, canceling New Kensington fireworks display this year

| Tuesday, July 2, 2013, 7:10 a.m.

Except for the occasional renegade bottle rocket, New Kensington's skies will be dark and quiet the night of July 4th.

The annual Fourth of July fireworks display and the all-day block party downtown will not take place this year, according to Mayor Tom Guzzo.

Guzzo explained that two city Recreation Committee members who handled fundraising and the planning for the event had to resign last year due to illness.

Guzzo said nobody came forward to continue their work.

“I guess, from our perspective, we've had these really dedicated committee members who have been able to raise funds for this event and they weren't able to continue with that,” Guzzo said. “This year, for a variety of reasons, they (the recreation committee) were unable to collect adequate donations.”

Kathy Males spearheaded the fundraising and planning for the fireworks display while Robin Laird, the former committee chairman, handled the block party. Both resigned to deal with treatments after being diagnosed with serious illnesses.

Males said raising the $13,000 needed for the fireworks isn't easy and requires a lot of preparation. She said she had a system in place to follow, all it needed was someone to direct it.

“It really ticks me off they didn't take this and run with it,” Males said of the committee. “It just doesn't come to you — you have to work for it. You have to have a fundraiser basically every month and they didn't want to do it.”

She said she would write solicitation letters for the fireworks that were mailed with the real estate tax notices sent out by the city and residents were generous in response.

“She would get some donations from older people apologizing that that is all they could give but they really appreciated the fireworks,” said Tony Males, her husband who helped her with the fireworks campaign.

In addition to that, the committee held bingos, did solicitation along roadways just as firefighters do, sent solicitation letters to businesses and sold 50-50 raffle tickets.

“That bums me out because it's a lot of work and even if they start again next year, they are starting from scratch,” Males said.

But that is the plan, according to Guzzo. He said some new people have been appointed to the committee also.

“We already started fundraising for next year and our goal is to have fireworks next year,” Guzzo said.

Males said she got involved with the fireworks display because her grandfather's birthday is July 3 and she had fond memories of watching the Springdale and Tarentum fireworks from a boat on the river. She thought New Kensington should have a display as well.

If she is healthy next year, Males said she would like to get involved with it again.

Why is it so important to her?

“It's a celebration of independence from England, the celebration of life in this country. You can live the way you want, say what you want,” Males replied. “I just think it's a great midsummer celebration to get everyone together.”

Tom Yerace is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4675 or tyerace@tribweb.com.

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