Financial woes could sink Pittsfield's Fourth of July Parade

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PITTSFIELD — The city's Fourth of July Parade has marched along North Street for nearly two centuries. Rain or shine.

But volunteers say that without a groundswell of community support this year, the beloved celebration could wind to a close.

"There's a very good chance this is the very last Fourth of July Parade," Parade Committee President Peter Marchetti said of this year's event.

Tens of thousands from the Berkshires and beyond flock each year to the parade, which has long been hailed as one of the largest in the region. The parade has been running since 1824, Marchetti said.

This year's parade is estimated to cost $70,000, and the parade committee has only $12,399 in the bank, according to documents provided by committee members.

The parade started losing money in 2010, but the biggest blow came in 2015, when the committee lost more than $15,000 — fundraising brought in $60,223 and costs came to $75,624. Expenses also surpassed fundraising by more than $10,000 each year over the past two years.

Organizers say that if the community stands behind the parade, then they're happy to help keep it going, but they are also at peace with letting it become a thing of the past, if need be.

"Sometimes things change," said Sue Rock, secretary for the Parade Committee. "And sometimes things can't be fixed."

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The committee has launched its fundraising campaign for this year, with the goal of raising $85,000 — that would pay for this year's event and put about $15,000 back into parade reserves. This year's parade theme will be "The Berkshires — Past, Present and Future."

In order to secure the parade's future, Marchetti said, "we need to have a really good year financially."

The parade is known for its giant balloons and marching bands. Scores of city residents past and present revisit the same viewing spots each year.

Meeting the same level of expectation has been a challenge as costs incrementally rose, organizers say. Helium costs went up 80 percent. As have postage costs, insurance, the musical acts and the travel expenses to bring them here.

"It's a huge operation we'd like to keep it going," said Parade Committee Vice President Jeff Hunt. "It's just getting a little concerning."

The weather also has been a factor, they said, as they've sometimes paid as much as $7,000 for musicians to perform, only to have their act canceled because of rain.

Organizers are calling all parade lovers in hopes that they'll donate or volunteer.

"I think we've been crying out for help every year," Marchetti said. "We don't want it to die. We need your help."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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