Three NEast Philly stories were featured in Metro yesterday, as part of our ongoing partnership with the daily newspaper. Below, find the full text of the exclusive Lawncrest Fourth of July story, and links to our other featured articles.
It was 9:20 p.m. and people were getting antsy. In the field behind Lawncrest Rec Center, children were crying, ice cream was melting and the fireworks slated for dusk hadn’t started. A lot was riding on this.
The neighborhood has to make severe cuts to last year’s Fourth of July festivities — the only major celebration in the Northeast — due to the city’s budget shortfall. The parade route was shortened, and some acts were cut. And there were no fireworks.
As a solution to the financial problem, the Lawncrest Community Association set up a Fourth of July Committee whose members gave updates and asked for donations throughout the year. Treasurer Gary Weaver announced at the June meeting: “There will be fireworks this year.” He was met with applause.
But nearing 9:30 at the 95th-annual event, which was held Saturday, there seemed to be some technical difficulties. Then the men lighting the fireworks walked off the field. Kids with red, white and blue Glow Sticks around the necks and wrists were now using the plastic tubes as patriotic weapons, and competing fireworks were popping off in the distance.
“It’s 9:37,” came a voice from one of the blankets stretched over the hill of Comly Street. Then bursts of pink and green filled the sky, and the end to Lawncrest’s day-long July 4th celebration had begun.
For people in the Northeast, Lawncrest’s annual event is the equivalent of the city’s Parkway festivities. While small barbecues, block parties and the occasional fireworks crop up in the region, nowhere else will you find such a large celebration. That’s why Michael McClain comes every year.
McClain, who lives in Normandy, came from the Far Northeast with his wife and kids. “I love everything about it,” he said, though couldn’t help but add he was most looking forward to the fireworks.
There were plenty of things for people to see and enjoy, with more than 12 hours blocked off for the celebration. But among the flea market, parade, car show, rides and games, youth baseball and a 10-bout boxing event, the fireworks were at the top of everyone’s list.
As Community Association board members Bill Dolbow and Phil Grutzmacher stood in the hot sun watching the Fists Full of Dynamite matches put on by Lawncrest’s Heavy Hitta’s boxing club, they looked forward to the fireworks to cap off what they marked as an already-successful day. The boxing and baseball events were additions to this year’s festivities, and both drew large crowds.
“I think we have as good as crowd as we’ve been having [over the years],” said Grutzmacher, who watches the fireworks from his front steps just a few blocks from the rec center. “The addition of baseball and boxing are exciting.”
Dolbow, who along with Grutzmacher and many others was sporting the T-shirt designed by the Fourth of July Committee to be sold for fundraising, agreed.
“This is 100 percent better from last year. The parade was perfect, and the addition of boxing is fantastic. The fireworks will be the topper,” he said. “The [Fourth of July] Committee did an outstanding job.”
This week’s NEast Philly edition of Metro also included our Real NEastate column about how much money a seller needs to be able to buy another home, and our newest column, Missing the Northeast, which discusses the greatness of Roosevelt Boulevard.
You can grab the full PDF of the issue here, and look for our next edition July 21.