Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Thousands of people watch the 4th of July fireworks display on Portland’s East End Wednesday night. The show almost didn’t go on this year due to funding problems.

By Troy R. Bennett, BDN Staff

PORTLAND, Maine — The state’s largest 4th of July fireworks show drew around 60,000 people to the city’s East End Wednesday night. But this year’s annual display of colorful explosions marking the country’s birthday almost didn’t happen due to funding issues — and it’s unclear just who paid for it this time around.

The nonprofit group of businesses that’s footed the bill for nearly a decade, July 4th Portland, announced in the spring that it couldn’t come up with the cash this year. In May, the city agreed to help by budgeting $35,000 towards the celebration.

To save money, the Portland Symphony Orchestra was axed from the show, saving a reported $30,000. In total, the celebration cost $130,000 last year.

Assuming the show costs have remained the same, with the city’s contribution, that still left July 4th Portland with $65,000 to raise for this year’s display.

In an email, July 4th Spokesperson Olivia Vega declined to reveal which businesses contributed money to the 2018 show or how much the final cost was. Vega also declined to say how many businesses were involved with fundraising.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Bailiegh Margenson, 5, waves sparklers with John Wallis on Portland’s East End before the 4th of July Fireworks got underway on Wednesday. Wallis was disappointed that the Portland Symphony Orchestra was not part of the show this year.

Most people who spoke to the BDN on Wednesday were unaware of the financial details behind the annual patriotic extravaganza.

“I saw some thing about it, but I didn’t read it,” said Michael Ledger of Portland, who was lighting off a sparkler at the end of Cutter Street.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Amanda Castonguay (left) and Michael Legere light sparklers in the dark before Portland’s 4th of July fireworks Wednesday night. Castonguay said she didn’t care who paid for the pyrotechnics as long as the show kept going on in the future.

Several people who spoke were disappointed that the orchestra was not playing.

“We’re bummed,” said Kelley Slippey, who was celebrating her third wedding anniversary. “But we’re going to have fun anyway.”

John Wallis of Westbrook said he might not come again next year if the orchestra doesn’t play.

“We got here early to hear the PSO and it was a surprise,” said Wallis.

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Jenna Conley (left) and Ryan Legere of Portland watch the fireworks on the East End of the city Wednesday night.

For many years, until 2010, Portland paid the complete cost for the show. When it announced it would stop, a group of businesses — Wex, the Portland Press Herald, Quirk Chevrolet and the Maine Red Claws — formed July 4th Portland to raise the needed money. It’s unclear which businesses are still involved in fundraising.

Portland Press Herald CEO and Publisher Lisa DiSisto has stated their only contribution would be free advertising space.

In May, the Portland Press Herald reported the city has been quietly fronting some of the costs for the event. Reportedly, Portland spent just over $106,000 in the last eight years in un-reimbursed expenses — including $42,000 last year alone.

“I don’t care who pays for it,” said Amanda Castonguay of Portland. “The fireworks are amazing every year. It would be unfortunate if they didn’t go on.”

Troy R. Bennett | BDN

Abbeth Russell (left) and John Silas of the Bumbling Woohas busk in the middle of Congress Street in Portland on Wednesday night after the annual 4th of July Fireworks display.


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