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Braintree Fourth of July parade shrinks, organizer resigns

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  April 30, 2013 12:50 PM

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A year after Braintree spent some $100,000 on its biggest and most expensive Fourth of July celebration, planners have pared down the budget, and lost a key organizer along the way.

This year, the entire event is expected to clock in at $84,000. A majority of the money will go to the town’s after-party and fireworks display at Braintree High School. The town plans to spend about $40,000 on the parade, far less than the $77,000 from public and private sources spent on the parade last year.

The lower-cost event has ruffled some feathers, and caused one person to resign.

“I resigned because I had to. No one was given me any cooperation,” said John Robinson, the previous Parade Committee Chairman.

Robinson, who has been in charge of organizing the parade for the past several decades, had requested an $86,000 budget for the parade alone this year.

The number was too high for town officials. When fundraising fell short last year, the town spent a total of $50,000 on the parade.

At a meeting in January, Robinson said he and town officials negotiated the parade down spending $73,000 on the parade. But, he said, two days later, he was emailed a budget of $55,000.

The parade route was also to be shortened, a change Robinson objected to because of the success of the current route.

Robinson said he tried to engage town officials in a discussion about the changes, but never heard back from anyone.

“I [was] getting no cooperation, I said the heck with this. I passed in what I had and said good luck to you,” Robinson said.

Tensions are high not only between Robinson and town officials, but between the town and canceled acts, Robinson said.

“[There’s] a lot of bad blood that way going around. I’m an old drum and bugle person myself. If you start canceling things, word will get around and you won’t get anyone for the future…” Robinson said. “A lot of people I’ve talked to are disappointed. They love coming here. But when you get politics involved, that’s what happens.”

Town officials characterize Robinson’s resignation as a disagreement over the budgeting.

“We had a difference of opinion on the budget figure that we were planning on budgeting for the parade, and John decided to step down,” said Town Councilor Sean Powers, who is also the Celebration Committee Chair, charged with the after party and firework side of the operation. “We appreciate everything that John has done and he was the founding member that started the parade, but it was just a difference of opinion on what the committee could afford for the parade budget, and we’re sorry to see him go.”

The town plans to pay for the lower-cost parade this year, but the budget for the fireworks and after-party has gone up.

Planners are hoping to raise an additional $44,000 from private sources for those parts of the celebration, which take place at Braintree High.

In 2012, organizers raised $35,000 from private sources. The town threw in an additional $5,000 for fireworks, which were more costly than anticipated

The increase is mainly due to the fact that this is Braintree’s 40th Annual parade.

“Basically we’ve increased the fireworks budget to $26,000, which is a 30 percent increase, because it is our 40th anniversary,” Powers said. “Obviously private fundraising dictates, [but] we’d like to keep it at that figure. That’s probably the most we’ve ever budgeted for fireworks.”

Though the overall event will be smaller, and though the parade budget has been cut almost in half, Powers was optimistic about what the town was going to see.

“We’re still going to have all the marching bands, we’re just not going to have as many of them, and we’ve been able to renegotiate some more competitive fees,” Powers said.

The shortened parade route will also work better logistically, ending at Sunset Lake instead of Braintree high, Powers said. The town has also hired the man who organizes Scituate’s St. Patrick’s Day parade to put everything together.

Coupled with the change of the organization to a 501c3, all donations are now tax deductible, which should help with the fundraising.

“I think we’ve refocused the parade and it’s going to be a diverse parade. It has something in it for everyone,” Powers said. “Looking at the funding going forward, we’ve had to pare back. Our community is not immune to the tough economic climate we’re in. We pared it back to ensure the financial health of both the parade and the celebration.”

Robinson was skeptical that the parade could be as wonderful as what he envisioned, but said he would still attend from the sidelines.

“It’s in their ball park now,” Robinson said. “I’m very disappointed, and wish things worked out.”

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