NEW BRITAIN - Alderman Brian Keith Albert had been opposed to funding the Fourth of July fireworks show at Stanley Quarter Park, citing its $100,000 price tag.
But then he heard about the repercussions felt by then-Mayor Tim Stewart several years ago, when he proposed the elimination of funding for the event.
That inspired Albert to float an idea that he said would change everything at a recent Common Council meeting.
“Why don’t we have our own fundraiser?” he asked, and the idea of “Quarters for Stanley Quarter,” was born.
“It’s amazing what little amounts do,” said Alderman Don Naples, who supported the proposal at the meeting.
He supported it so much that, on Wednesday, he donated about one-third of his council salary to the campaign, all in quarters, turning the money over to Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Patrick Dorsey.
“I’ll never forget how much 4,000 quarters weighs,” said Naples, who carried the two boxes of the coins on a hand truck.
Naples said he has donated his council pay to other efforts, Naples said, since the city won’t take his paychecks back.
On hand for the donation were Albert; Erik Barbieri, the city’s director of parks, recreation and community services; and Gerry Amodio, director of the Downtown District, who donated a bag of quarters.
“He really had a great idea,” said Amodio of Albert.
How much the city will contribute to paying for the fireworks is unknown, Barbieri said, as it depends on how the final budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, turns out.
Naples’ and Amodio’s donations were the first results of the fundraising effort.
“Anything we get is a win,” Barbieri said.
The fireworks display itself costs $25,000, but other costs, mostly overtime staffing on a holiday, push the total bill to $100,000, he said.
Albert said he would like to raise $40,000, which would cover police staffing costs at the least.
The Fourth of July event, called “The Great American Boom,” begins at 5 p.m. at Stanley Quarter Park with music from Latanya Farrell between 6 and 9 p.m. and fireworks at 9:15 p.m. Food will be available.
Albert said he plans to visit business and schools to see if they want to help collect spare change to help raise money.
“My goal is to collect 400,000 quarters,” said Albert.
Collection locations have been set up in the New Britain Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department office in City Hall, 27 W. Main St., and the Visitors Center of the Downtown District office, 66 W. Main St.. Quarters are welcome, but donors can also pay in paper money or with checks made payable to New Britain Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department, said Barbieri.
Fundraising will run right up until the show itself, Barbieri said, when even more quarter collection might happen, Albert said.
“Between the two of them, it was a great kickoff,” said Barbieri of Albert’s creativity and Naples’ generosity.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.