New Canaan’s legislative body on Wednesday recognized a group of residents who volunteer each year to plan and run one of the town’s most beloved annual traditions, the Fourth of July fireworks at Waveny.
The Family Fourth Committee through its many hours of volunteering creates what Town Council Vice Chairman Steve Karl called “a Norman Rockwell moment” for those who picnic and enjoy the fireworks show each summer.
“It’s one of those places and times when it’s New Canaan at its best,” Karl said during the Town Council’s regular meeting, held at Town Hall. “Thank you.”
The committee includes:
- Steve Benko
- Scott Cluett
- Chris Cody
- Wendy Dixon Fog
- Win Goodrich
- Suzanne Jonker
- Vincent Luciano
- Steve Parrett (Secretary)
- Tom Stadler (Chairman)
- John DiFederico
- Rob Mallozzi (honorary member)
- Doug Richardson (liaison from the Park & Recreation Commission)
At councilman Penny Young’s suggestion, the committee earned a standing ovation from the legislative body and others gathered in the Town Meeting Room.
Town Council Chairman Bill Walbert said nothing better defines New Canaan “than the celebration that we put on for our country’s birthday.”
“There are a lot of things that speak to it, one of which is the fact that we depend on our citizens to support it, it is run by our citizens we have countless volunteers that work everything from traffic to balloons to you name it.”
Walbert noted that Stadler “lives and breathes” the Family Fourth as the committee’s chairman and “is always looking to make it better.”
Committee member Steve Benko recalled that the Family Fourth was launched in 1979 when the chairman of Park & Rec at the time, Joe Toppin, brought the idea to then-First Selectman Charlie Morton about creating a regular event out of a Bicentennial celebration at Waveny a few years earlier, complete with a picnic, fireworks and skydivers.
“I can remember the days when we were out on Elm Street trying to get people to make donations, before there were passes,” Benko recalled. “You’d have Bob Ready on one side of Elm Street, Ted Winpenny on the other side of Elm Street, working down Elm street trying to raise money, Joe DiPanni down at Veggie Barn.”
A partnership between private and town efforts, the event could not come off without help from agencies such as the police and fire departments, CERT and New Canaan Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Stadler said.
“These people are just so great,” Stadler said of the voluneers.
“When you show up there at about 6 or 6:30 in the morning and you see a lot of the faces of these guys right there to set up tents and coolers and fire line and they are there year after year after year after year and they’re asking what can they do,” he sad. “It’s just such a wonderful thing, sometimes I compare it God’s Acre when they do the caroling up there, that’s a wonderful tradition for New Canaan, and it happens because so many people care.”
Councilman Sven Englund offered heartfelt thanks to “all my friends” sitting in a row before the council for all they put into the family event “and making sure we get the show off on time.”
“It’s just been a real pleasure,” Englund said.
Here’s a video of this year’s Family Fourth at Waveny:
Uploaded by Michael Dinan on 2016-07-05.