Latrobe fire chief eyes parade, race route changes for Fourth of July celebration
Latrobe’s 4th of July Celebration has a new chairman — with some new ideas for running the 50-year-old festival, one of the largest annual events in the city.
John Brasile, Latrobe’s fire chief, confirmed at this week’s council meeting he has agreed to take on oversight of the multiple-day, mid-summer celebration — after Carol Greenawalt retired from the role two months ago, following three decades at the helm.
Changes Brasile has proposed include new routes for the festival’s parade and 5-mile race and a new venue for the midway.
“Carol did a fantastic job for 30 years, ” Brasile said, but he added, ““I think you’re going to see some changes, and I think they’re going to all be for the better.”
Brasile said he hopes to increase the size of the fireworks display that traditionally caps off the celebration, with a goal of raising $30,000 in sponsor support for it.
He intends for that display to remain at Legion-Keener Park but is proposing the festival’s carnival midway be moved from the park to the city’s First Ward ball field, where the city fire department’s adjacent Hose Company No. 1 holds its annual street fair.
It would be easier for rescuers to respond to a potential emergency if the midway is located at the First Ward site, Brasile said. He suggested live music performances continue to be staged at the Legion Keener Park band shell.
The 5-mile run, he suggested, would continue to start at Memorial Stadium but, instead of heading to the North Side and the vicinity of Excela Latrobe Hospital, would strike out into the town’s Fifth Ward, following portions of Irving Avenue, Jefferson, Gertrude and Ligonier streets and Harrison Avenue.
The new route, Brasile said, would keep the race away from traffic on two key state roads — Main and Depot streets — and would avoid the North Ligonier Street bridge over the Loyalhanna Creek, which is slated for traffic restrictions next year, as it is being updated.
The revised race course “keeps everybody safer because there’s not as many cars,” he said, adding, “It takes less people to handle traffic control through intersections. ”
The parade, Brasile suggests, would, as usual, head north on Ligonier Street, from Irving Avenue into downtown Latrobe. But it would no longer make a turn and end by traveling in the opposite direction on Jefferson Street. Instead, he’s proposing the parade continue north on Ligonier, until it reaches Miller Street, which is a route used by trucks to exit the town.
“We can’t get bigger floats to make the turns, and then you take the parade route right back into itself,” Brasile said of the existing route’s drawbacks. “Everybody got jammed up.”
“What we’re trying to do is make town a little more navigable, so we’re not tying up the main thoroughfares,” he said of the revised route. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for everybody, but I think it will be easier to get everybody out of town after the parade. You’ll have more avenues out.”
“Change is hard for people, but it’s not always a bad thing,” Mayor Rosie Wolford said. “It’s new people bringing new ideas, and that’s a good thing.”
Brasile said he would like to keep all 4th of July Celebration activities within the city limits — including the Miss Fourth of July pageant, which has been held days before the main festival activities, at the Greater Latrobe Senior High auditorium in neighboring Unity Township.
Brasile, 60, who is set to retire later this year from the maintenance staff at Westmoreland County’s Twin Lakes Park, said he will have more time beginning next year to devote to 4th of July preparations.
“A couple of months ago I said I would get involved,” Brasile said of the festival. “I didn’t want to chair it, but things have changed.… Nobody was coming forward.
“I think it would be traumatic to the city to let this celebration slip away. Our parade is probably one of the biggest in the county. I just think we need to keep it strong and keep it going.”
Brasile noted his duties as fire chief already had him involved in several aspects of the festival.
Firefighters are “there for the parade; we’re doing traffic control,” he said. “I’m out all day with the fireworks, inspecting those.”
Brasile said he welcomes those who have served on the celebration’s committee to continue their work while adding that he’s open to anyone willing to volunteer their assistance or offer input.
Those who would like to get involved may contact Brasile at 724-787-0810.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .