FORT PLAIN - Wiles Park hosted the village's 25th annual Fourth on the Third Celebration on Tuesday, inviting local families to enjoy music, fireworks and an end-of-the-night bonfire.
The day-before-Independence-Day event was dedicated this year to Dawn Hanifin. After a loss of funding during the booster club's four-year attempt for a similar event in the 1970s, Hanifin reinvigorated the tradition that has lasted 24 years and has become a mainstay in the area's patriotic celebrations.
Hanifin said she got a seat on the Village Board, and members of the community were asking for a Fourth of July event that would feature band concerts like the village used to have "back in Fort Plain's heyday."
People wait in line to try a rock-climbing tower at Fort Plain’s 25th annual Fourth on the Third Celebration on Tuesday.
"I kind of made that my objective and my goal - to take advantage of the beautiful parks we have," she said. "I started small. I had a very limited budget. I think the village allowed $1,200 for celebrations."
A major help Hanifin cited was Alonzo Fireworks, a Schaghticoke-based company that had previously provided fireworks for the booster club. She said the company told her its was busy on the Fourth of July but would be able to provide fireworks at a cheaper price on July 3, and that's how the Fourth on the Third Celebration was born.
This year's event also featured a rock-climbing wall, a classic-car cruise at Haslett Park and music by Lustre Kings, Spike and the Boys Band and the Dependents.
The opening act was hometown band the Dependents, a band of young people who started out as a trio of keyboard player Jocelyn Arndt, guitarist Christian Arndt and drummer Evan Searles before adding bassist Valerie Hoffman last year. They said the 2010 Fourth on the Third was their starting point, and they recognized the significance of the celebration.
"I think it's one of the community's biggest days of the year," Christian said. "It's where everybody comes and has their tents and does their thing. It's basically a really big day for the community."
Students from both Fort Plain and Canajoharie high schools were in attendance to draw attention to their Aug. 3 and 4 production of "Beauty and the Beast."
Co-director Ashley Broady said the group was there to raise funds with picture opportunities and crafts, but also because everyone in each school has experienced how big this event is.
"It's a great place to gather together. It's very social," Broady said. "You don't have to spend a dime to enjoy yourself. It's a great way to kick off the holiday and get into the spirit."
Hanifin said she couldn't be more pleased with how the Fourth on the Third has developed into major attraction for residents of the region.
"I think it's a tremendous event," Hanifin said. "Obviously people keep coming back, so we have a good thing here."