By PATRICK DEWEY • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA — The Hometown 4th Festival will return to Oneonta’s Neahwa Park to celebrate the July Fourth holiday next weekend, with a theme of honoring essential workers.
The goal is to honor the workers, including grocery store staff, teachers, police officers, firefighters and healthcare workers, who took risks for the community good during the coronavirus pandemic, according to festival officials.
“We wanted to do everything we could to let them know that the First Night Board and the whole community appreciates them,” First Night Board Chair Carol Mandigo said.
The celebration will kick off at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 2, in Neahwa Park, with a free concert by country artist Michael Christopher.
At noon, Sunday, July 4, the parade will line up at Foothills Performing Arts Center on Market Street.
Dr. Tommy Ibrahim, CEO of Bassett Healthcare Network, will serve as grand marshal for the parade. All essential workers are encouraged to participate and can register before the parade for a chance to win door prizes from local businesses.
The parade will begin at 1 p.m. and end at Neahwa Park. The July 4th festivities will continue in the park with a celebration of arts and culture, beginning at 2 p.m.
According to Mandigo, local community members such as Oneonta Mayor Gary Herzig and upcoming mayoral candidates will make remarks honoring essential workers. In addition, company representatives and those who are essential workers can speak to their colleagues.
Ben Guenther, owner of Five Star Subaru, organized and funded the fireworks display taking place at 10 p.m., July 4, in Neahwa Park.
Guenther said the fireworks will be twice as intense as previous displays.
“We wanted to say we’re a community and we’ve got this,” Guenther said.
Mandingo said Guenther has wanted to honor essential workers since the early days of the pandemic, but this was the first time a big event was feasible.
Musical entertainment and festival activities are designed for all ages. Activities include Mike the Juggler, face painting and demonstrations from Harmony Martial Arts. There will also be a variety of food, and tents and tables will be available.
After two years of seeing the community struggle against the effects of the coronavirus, Mandigo said she is looking forward to seeing everyone gather again. She said she is proud Hometown 4th is free, something she says would not be possible without its many sponsors and contributors.
“This community is a family and we are looking forward to giving back,” Guenther said.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up to participate in the parade or to sponsor the event.