Family Fourth Committee Seeks To ‘Change the Culture,’ Encourage Attendees To Purchase Event Passes


The volunteers who help manage traffic at the Waveny fireworks estimate that 40 percent of motorists who park at the three nearby schools do not display event passes in their vehicles, and that an additional 10 percent who park at Waveny itself also appear not to have purchased a pass.

It’s a practice that Tom Stadler, chairman of the Family Fourth Committee, said he would like to change.


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The committee wants to dispel what is “ingrained in the culture,” Stadler said—that the pass is a parking pass.

Those walking in and even those who park at South School, Saxe Middle School, and New Canaan High School should purchase the $35 event pass, he said.

“I want people to have a great time and participate, but we have watched our revenue numbers drop,” Stadler said. “That’s not the right atmosphere.”

With its live music, family picnicking and spectacular fireworks show, the New Canaan Family Fourth at Waveny Park is deemed a favorite annual event for New Canaanites.

Family Fourth at Waveny, 2014. Credit: Chris Cody

Family Fourth at Waveny, 2014. Credit: Chris Cody

Unlike surrounding towns, New Canaan’s show is funded by the purchase of event passes and donations to the standalone New Canaan Family Fourth Fund—not taxes or sponsors.

The money collected from the passes makes the event possible, but the numbers show a large discrepancy between those attending and those who have purchased passes, according to Stadler.

The committee’s efforts to change the attitudes of Family Fourth attendees began last year. To combat dropping revenue, the price of event passes was raised from $30 to $35, and a notice was placed on the windshield of those who did not display passes. The committee plans to hand out these notices, which explain why the passes are necessary and asks for donations to be mailed following the event, on an even bigger scale this year, according to Stadler. The committee will also provide volunteers with counters to gather more accurate data of those who attend without displaying a pass, Stadler said.

Money collected from event passes covers expenses such as maintaining the PA system and speakers, securing tents, renting entertainment for kids and purchasing generators, new trash cans and a 50-foot American flag.


To stay true to the traditional small-town feel of the Waveny fireworks, the Family Fourth Committee will avoid interrupting the flow of traffic and creating a “checkpoint,” he said.

“You could put up a toll gate, but we don’t want to do that,” he said. “It’s a family event.”

Members of the committee are seeking to change the culture by informing residents that the Family Fourth is independently funded. Money received is not allocated for another purpose; it is used to make the show better. Stadler said: “If we all reach in our pocket, [the event] will be better. That’s the message I’ve tried to get across.”

The 36th Annual Family Fourth of July Celebration will be held on Monday, July 4, 2016 at Waveny (rain date of Tuesday, July 5 – Fireworks Only). Passes may be purchased at Walter Stewart’s Market, New Canaan Toy Store, the Recreation Department and Town Hall.


6 thoughts on “Family Fourth Committee Seeks To ‘Change the Culture,’ Encourage Attendees To Purchase Event Passes

  1. We have been attending the event off and on since 1983. The crowds are not what they once were, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s a change in habits. But it also lacks some elements it once had – the (tethered) hot air balloons, the sky divers, maybe other things I have forgotten. I don’t think the food trucks will enhance it. [Coney Island, anyone?] The nicest part was the picnic aspect, people bringing food, setting up on blankets with friends and neighbors, coming early and staying late. Now many pop in just before the fireworks. But I rather doubt that policing the parking passes will create more enthusiasm. I have heard people complaining about the escalating cost of the passes already, fairly or not. Maybe a sponsor program and free parking is a better model.

  2. The Family 4th is such a wonderful event; we’ve been going off and on since college (!!). And, it’s so reasonable for what you receive. It could be that some people park at the schools to avoid the “rush” of queuing to leave, after the fireworks. Perhaps there’s a way for people who choose to park at the schools to also purchase a parking pass, especially since some may think it’s actually more convenient to park at the schools and walk up to Waveny. For those who are often away during the Juy 4th weekend, maybe there’s a way to provide a link to easily donate, too.

  3. Could it have anything to do with the fact that you can go to any number of neighboring towns and watch fireworks **for free**?

  4. People drive in without paying!?! I guess they don’t understand how hard the volunteer committee works (for the entire year) to bring us this unique and self funded event. Please contribute!!!!

  5. I purchased mine at Walter Stewart’s today. How about you? $35 less than a round trip on metro north or parking in NYC to go to a show.

  6. I was surprised that the mailing did not go out this year. We always purchased our car pass that way, mailing in a check along w/ a self addressed/stamped envelope.
    We purchase a pass every year but do opt to park at the high school and watch from there too. We have an autistic family member and the crowds with in the park plus the long (and crazy/hectic) car lines to leave were just too much for him to handle.
    However, when we first began doing that there was only a handful of others that did too. But the past 2 years the nchs parking lot and soccer field has filled up. We noticed that about 1/2 the cars did not have passes and while talking to the attendees most people were NOT residents.

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