It was February when Adrian Price first heard the news-Guilford's glorious July fireworks display, a patriotic summertime staple enjoyed by thousands, was getting the ax.
"At first, I was in complete disbelief," recalls Adrian. "Then, I just got angry. How do you cut the fireworks in this climate, when we've got people fighting overseas and dying?"
A realtor with Guilford's Page Taft Real Estate, Adrian grew up in Madison and has been a Guilford resident since 1993. From his downtown backyard, always gathered with family and friends, Adrian has enjoyed many a summer watching the rockets' red glare from the fireworks launched from Guilford Fairgrounds.
The Guilford Parks & Recreation-sponsored fireworks program is free for residents, but costs $10,000 annually.
After it was cut from the budget, "We needed $10,000. We had nothing," says Parks & Recreation Director Rick Maynard.
Back in February, Adrian had never met Maynard and had never before led a grassroots effort such as the one he was about to embark upon, but he says there was no question in his mind he was going to contact whoever was in charge and then offer to lead the charge to raise the needed funding.
"I immediately sent an email to Rick Maynard saying, 'Somehow, some way, I'm going to raise $10,000.'"
Adrian also contacted his 500 Facebook friends and started a Facebook events page, "Save the Fireworks, Town of Guilford 2011." Then, he contacted another friend, Ed Bartlett, administrator of www.ctoutandabout.com, to help broaden the social media message. A grateful and delighted Maynard put Adrian in touch with another resident who wanted to help, Ray Luden, a board member of Guilford Soccer Fest. Luden's connections helped further broaden the reach of the appeal.
"Ray Luden stepped up immediately and just wanted to be completely involved," says Adrian.
Luden's offered to match up to $500 in contributions being dropped into a special collection container now in Augurs Irish Pub. It's one of many "Save the Fireworks" containers placed around town to help fuel the fundraising. Adrian says another Guilford business on board since "day one," KC's Pub, held a special fireworks fundraising event June 16.
Other businesses, organizations, and many individuals have been sending in donations of varying amounts and every penny is greatly appreciated, he adds.
"We've had donations from $5 all the way up to $1,000. A friend as far away as New Hampshire sent in a check," says Adrian.
Among the first to contribute were his own kids, Spencer, 17, and Alexandra, 15.
Donors have been mailing checks made out to Parks & Recreation (with "fireworks" in the memo).
Just two weeks ago, the fundraiser hit its $10,000 goal, but it hasn't stopped there. As of press time, more than $11,000 had been raised. All extra funds are being put toward future fireworks, beginning with 2012, says Maynard.
Adrian says he knew people would respond to an appeal to save Guilford's fireworks and adds he was touched by the amount of support he received.
"I never felt any pressure. People came out of the woodwork to help. I'm not sure how many people were aware I was doing this, but I couldn't go anywhere without people thanking me. This is the easiest thing I've ever done. This is an event people want to attend and feel good about. It's something people feel really strongly about and want to support."
So, thanks to Adrian, Ed, Ray, Rick, and everyone who made a contribution, the 2011 Guilford fireworks will go off on July 9 from the Guilford Fairgrounds.
And, while he could easily kick back to enjoy the show from his backyard, Adrian says, for the first time, he's planning to join the crowds flocking to the fairgrounds to catch the show.
"I'm not having a party this year. I want to be at the event. I just want to soak it all in."
The Guilford Fireworks display is set for Saturday, July 9 at 7:30 p.m. at Guilford Fairgrounds on Lovers Lane (rain date is Sunday, July 10). Featured pre-fireworks entertainment includes the winner of Guilford's Battle of the Bands performing on stage and free inflatable playscapes for kids. Residents are also encouraged to attend the Community Picnic (July 9 from 4 to 7 p.m.; no rain date) on the Guilford Green, featuring free inflatable playscapes for kids and a free performance by the Guilford Town Band, directed by Mark Gahm, from 5 to 7 p.m. (in case of rain the band will perform at the Nathanael Greene Community Center). For more information, call 203-453-8068.