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Friday, August 27, 2010

More bucks for the bang - Efforts to fund 2011 fireworks show start early

As published in the Record Journal Friday August 27, 2010

By Jesse Buchanan
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2230

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WALLINGFORD — After raising $30,000 in a little over a month to save this year’s July 4 fireworks, organizers Craig Fishbein and Jason Zandri are getting an early start on raising $40,000 for next year’s festivities, an amount they hope will also restore the R Band concert before the fireworks.

“It was a massive rush,” Zandri said of the effort earlier this year.

Fundraising will begin at Celebrate Wallingford, Oct. 2 and 3. The pair, an odd couple politically, will also hold events as often as monthly to raise funds and maintain awareness of the effort.

Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr. cut money for the fireworks show from the town’s budget last year, prompting a voluntary effort to fund it.

The Wallingford Fireworks Fund’s new goal could help pay the orchestra, as well as absorb cost increases in town services and fireworks.

Zandri, a Democrat, said the display cost about $18,000 and town services - such as police overtime - totaled $12,000.

“I’m playing a little inflation into both,” he said Thursday. “I figure I better have a little bit of wiggle room.”

Zandri and Fishbein, a Republican Town Councilor and local attorney, will have a booth at Celebrate Wallingford and will be giving mugs, bottles and shirts to people who donate to the fireworks. The goal is to announce that fundraising has begun rather than raise a specific amount of money, according to Zandri.

“It’s more of an awareness thing,” he said.

Fishbein said he is in the process of registering the fund as a non-profit with the IRS, which would allow it to hold a raffle to raise money.

Official nonprofit status would also help the fundraising effort, Fishbein said. Last year, donation pledges totaling at least $6,500 were withdrawn when donors found out that the organization wasn’t a 501(c)3.

“We had people who said they weren’t willing to donate if you’re not a charity recognized by the IRS,” Fishbein said Thursday.

Zandri said he intends to go before the council next spring and request the town donate its services for the show. He’s not banking on acceptance of that proposal, but said the savings could be used to expand the show for next year.

The fireworks display is one of the largest, if not the largest, event in town, Zandri said, and would benefit many of the residents.

Council Chairman Robert Parisi said he wasn’t opposed to donating the services but that he’d judge based on the financial situation the town was in next year.

“It’s worth listening to,” said Parisi, a Republican, Thursday. “They did very well on the fundraising.”

Two fundraisers are already tentatively planned: a dinner in March and a concert in April, both at Zandri’s Stillwood Inn, which is owned by Jason Zandri’s uncle Jim.

Jason Zandri hopes to get volunteers to hold events throughout the year to keep momentum going. The big push will be January to May of next year.

“It can’t be just me and Craig all year long,” he said.

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