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Fireworks still planned for Sewickley Memorial Day weekend

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:09 p.m.

Sewickley's annual fireworks display is set to blast off as planned this year as part of the Memorial Day weekend of remembrance.

Mayor Brian Jeffe said Zambelli fireworks will cap off the evening on May 23, following the flag retirement ceremony in Wolcott Park that kicks off the four-day tribute.

“It's just a great way to pause and recognize the veterans,” said Jeffe, who is chairman of the Sewickley Memorial Day Committee.

While creating this year's budget, Jeffe said he requested funds to cover the fireworks should anissue arise this year similar to last year.

“Council approved it on a one-year basis just in case the fundraising wasn't there,” he said.

“We wanted to make sure that we would have money set aside.”

Borough Manager Kevin Flannery said $20,000 is budgeted to cover the fireworks from the borough's general fund.

“The borough picks it up because they need the money for the parade and other Memorial Day things,” Flannery said.

Sewickley Council President Susan Aleshire said she wants to see costs of the fireworks covered by private money.

“I understand that we do have this budgeted,” she said. “It is my hope that we can try to get people to sponsor this. It's an expense.”

Flannery said the fireworks have received support from the public, in addition to the other events.

“They're always calling and asking when it is,” Flannery said, “and they always call and say it was a great event.”

In the past, the 16-member committee, which handles all four days of events — including the parade — was able to raise around $25,000 in annual donations to cover the cost of the fireworks, Jeffe said.

Jeffe said last year was the first time the committee — made up mostly of veterans — was challenged to raise enough money to cover the fireworks. The borough ended up covering the costs and the committee later wrote a check to the borough after receiving additional donations, he said.

Jeffe said a letter has been sent to local residents and business owners requesting contributions. In the past few weeks, he said, some donations have come in from private individuals and corporations.

“I think we'll be fine, we're just not there yet because it's (early),” Jeffe said.

Checks can be sent to the borough and donation cans will be placed out during events, Flannery said.

Sewickley's Memorial Day celebration didn't always involve fireworks.

Jeffe said organizers in the past weren't getting large enough crowds and decided to add fireworks to highlight the weekend and acknowledge veterans as a celebration of their service.

“That's why we call it the ‘Celebration of Service fireworks,'” Jeffe said. “It is to bring attention to the tribute the borough and the Memorial Day committee puts on every year.”

Fireworks will be launched from the Sewickley Cemetery over Heritage Valley Sewickley hospital.

When the flag retirement ceremony took place at Riverfront Park, fireworks were shot off from barges on the Ohio River, Jeffe said.

That means higher costs from having to rent the barges and pay for permits.

Jeffe said the Coast Guard had to be present and trains had to be stopped for a period of time.

Leaders were concerned, too, that the ceremony was pulling people out of town and away from the businesses, he said.

The flag retirement was relocated back to Wolcott Park on Broad Street, where attendees can take chairs, listen to patriotic music and witness the proper disposal of American flags on the Friday before Memorial Day.

“It honors and respects the service that men and women have given from this community so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we enjoy,” Flannery said.

Bobby Cherry contributed to this report. Larissa Dudkiewicz is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

Editor's note: An original version of this story incorrectly listed an incorrect date for fireworks. The correct date has been updated in the story.

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