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Fourth Of July

Fourth Of July

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"It came down to this: Did we want to spend $150,000 on something that would be over in a few hours?" Cervenik said.

"Or did we want to use that money to keep city workers employed?"The news has sparked outrage and protests among residents who long to preserve an American tradition that dates to 1777.

They say that fireworks displays are more than a nod to nostalgia: They allow communities to come together, set aside their woes and build up town pride -- even if only for a few hours."Good times, bad times, there's always been fireworks," said Robert Baker, who heads the Fourth of July festival committee in Abington, Mass.Baker, a shipping foreman with a shoe manufacturer, has been out of work for a year.

The festival was quashed this month amid city budget fights."This is one more blow in a year of blow after blow," Baker said.In San Jose, slumping tourism and dwindling sales tax receipts shut down the city's America Festival and its evening display over a half-mile stretch of Highway 87.

"We're faced with balancing an $84-million budget shortfall," said mayoral spokeswoman Michelle McGurk.

"We don't have the money to support a lot of things we'd like to."Some cities would rather feed their residents than entertain them.

In the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello, where unemployment hovers at 12%, the City Council unanimously voted to use its $39,000 fireworks budget on donations to local food banks."The last food bank line I saw had more than 1,000 people in it," said Mayor Rosemarie Vasquez.

"We figured that, instead of burning the money in the air, why not give it to people who need it."In Lowell, Mass., Mayor Edward Caulfield canceled the city's annual show to help save one city job.

He had already cut 48.Big cities, such as Chicago and New York, have been able to keep their shows thanks to corporate sponsors, according to the American Pyrotechnics Assn.But Julie Heckman, executive director of the association, said that smaller communities tended to rely on a combination of city funds and local donations to pay for their displays of patriotism.

When budgets grow tight, she said, towns are forced to be creative with less.That was the case for Punta Gorda, Fla., a community of 17,000 on the Gulf Coast.

The city, devastated in 2004 by Hurricane Charley, is still rebuilding itself.

The recession hasn't helped.When the city pulled its backing for the show over Charlotte Harbor last year, the town's Main Street association took over.,0,2351470.story
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