Rochester salutes the Fourth
There was a little something for everybody: a car and motorcycle show, a BMX and skateboard competition, local and national musical acts, and, to top it off, a fireworks display and block party.
Organizers of the first "Salute to the Fourth" hope a new kind of annual celebration grows out of the assortment of events held on Seventh Street Northeast in Rochester on Saturday.
"A new tradition is what we're trying to start," said Max Evans, co-organizer of the event and communications manager for the Rochester Area Foundation.
If a Fourth of July fireworks display is the culmination of a celebration, Saturday's events at Silver Lake Park were meant to be the build-up.
For as long as people can remember, there have been fireworks displays in Rochester to celebrate Independence Day, but little else during the day. Once the fireworks have ended, people have rolled up their blankets and gone home. Saturday's event was meant to capture that audience, measured in the tens of thousands, and to create more of a citywide celebration.
Standing under a tent at Silver Lake on Saturday, Evans said the goal this year was a modest one: Not to lose money. But the ambition over time is to create an event that is as much a part of the Rochester calendar as Rochesterfest. More community support and more sponsors would in turn fund a bigger party and fireworks display, which the city is financing this year.
"We've had Rochesterfest for so long in town, and it's such a great thing to do," Evans said. "And then for many years, it was like, 'Oh, we just have the Fourth of July fireworks,' and then it's over with. Well, most communities got a huge parade or something. So we're trying to think a little bit differently for the Fourth of July."
There was a $5 fee to get into the vendor's area. The BMX and skateboard competition cost $10 to pre-register and $15 for same-day registration. "Salute to the Fourth" organizers hope to contribute a modest sum — $4,000 to $6,000 — to the fireworks display in the future. The fireworks currently cost about $35,000 to put on. But that contribution, they hope, will grow more substantial over time.
To create a bigger attraction, organizers brought in national acts including American dancer and choreographer Brian Puspos. Local musical acts included Acillatem (Metallica spelled backwards) and Suite.
Even in the midst of Saturday's events, organizers were already imagining future events and participants, such as a 5K fun run where runners are encouraged to wear their red, white and blue running gear. They also hope to get local veterans' groups more involved.
"We're all about growing it right now," Evans said. "Just getting the word out there and attracting some sponsors the next year, too."