As published in the Record Journal Sunday July 3, 2011
By Dan Brechlin
WALLINGFORD - Mirin Scassellati had an expensive birthday party Saturday night. Her family had to pay for the cupcakes and presents, but luckily various organizations, businesses and residents pitched in the $24,150 for a fireworks celebration.
The fireworks were not just for her, but the 9-year-old and her family enjoyed the early Independence Day show. She blew out a candle, unwrapped presents and bit into a red, white and blue frosted cupcake.
"I like having fireworks on my birthday," Mirin, a Cheshire resident, said.
As for the $24,150 tab for the fireworks and police and other emergency services overtime, for the second consecutive year the town was not able to pay. And for the second straight year, Jason Zandri stepped up to organize the fundraising efforts.
"They said the money was not there," Zandri said. "Nobody said they were going to step up and do anything or fundraise, so I felt I had to."
And raise money he did. Last year, the money came in faster, Zandri said, with a big help from Choate Rosemary Hall, which pitched in $5,000.
The same check did not come this year, which Zandri had no problem with. But when his May 27 deadline, handed down from Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., was quickly approaching, Zandri got a big bonus. A check worth $2,500 came from New Life Church, helping to save the day and show.
Thousands gathered at Sheehan High School, Moran Middle School, Highland School, nearby businesses and parking lots, and even from their front lawns to watch the fireworks.
"It's important people come out," Zandri said. "This is their show. They're watching a show they helped create."
Sarah Park, a Wallingford resident, said she felt proud to have helped out with the fundraising efforts and put the show on.
"I gave a few dollars the other day," Park said, noting that Zandri had been standing outside a local Dunkin' Donuts collecting anything he could get. "They should have this every year no matter what. The kids love it and deserve to see some fireworks."
Zandri has already gotten a jumpstart on next year's collections, as he walked around asking for help in putting on the show next year.
Before the fireworks could begin, children were running around, playing games, waving glow sticks and using sparklers. Miniature hot air balloons ascended into the sky, with the crowd cheering and clapping in approval.
As the clock reached 9:30 p.m., the first few fireworks shot off into the sky, provoking "oohs" and "aahs" from the crowd.
"I'm sure people will want something similar next year," Zandri said.