BRISTOL, R.I. — The nations oldest 4th of July celebration is a few days away. This year will mark the 234th annual observance of the Fourth of July Celebration in Bristol.
Early Sunday afternoon families crowded the lawn at Independence Park for a free puppet show for children.
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In attendance Sunday was Fran O’Donnell, the General Chairman for the Bristol 4th of July celebration. She said the evening concerts draw in an attendance of 1,000 to 3,000 spectators.
According to O’Donnell, keeping them safe is the top priority.
“Key to our whole celebration is the police department. They don’t really like to talk about security, but I will tell you that there are undercover cops, bomb-sniffing dogs. They’re just amazing,” said O’Donnell.
Given the time of year, she said summer storms also pose hazards.
Ray Levay is the chairman of music and entertainment. He said all the events will continue on despite any rain. But, when you mix in lightning or strong wind, safety becomes priority number one.
During the event of strong winds, stage crews are evacuated and the roof of the platform is lowered. This will protect the structure from any wind damage. In the Tweet seen below, you can see the blue roof is on a track system. Allowing the roof to be raised and lowered.
Anyone caught outside during a strong or severe thunderstorm, Levay asks that you calmly seek shelter out of harm’s way.
Across the street from Independence Park is Portside Tavern, owned by Caroline & Rich Corrente. They have added additional outside seating during the evenings, underneath this tent.
Corrente explains the recent weather has been a problem for business.
“The first couple days, it was cold and rainy. The concert got canceled on one of them. A lot of the success of the tent on those nights has to do with the weather,” Corrente said.
The laundry list of events leading up to the 4th of July have brought in many new faces to the restaurant, according to Corrente.
“People are coming in for the summer and coming in from the concerts. We have received a lot of good responses from out of town people,” Corrente said.
More money is also being pumped into the local economy.
Fran O’Donnell says they turned to Roger Williams University last year to conduct a study of the economic impact for the community. While she didn’t have the exact numbers handy, she said there was definitely an economic impact during the three-weeks of festivities. She added, “They gave us some great ideas to go forward.”
One of those ideas O’Donnell would like to see implemented is a short survey of those attending the events.
“We would love to poll some of the people, the thousands of people who are here every night for the concerts. Where did you come from? Did you eat in town? Did you buy anything locally? Just three or four simple questions,” she said.
The cost to put on these events, minus police details, is $450,000.
Those interested in attending any events in Bristol can visit the Bristol Fourth of July website for a full list of events.