Cities turn to private business for July 4th funding

SAN JOSE, Calif.

Milpitas is one of those cities that had the will and found a way. As many as 10,000 people were expected to crowd the athletic fields at the Milpitas Sports Complex to watch fireworks set off from the baseball field. The charge was $3 per person. It was almost a sellout and perhaps a new model for how the Fourth of July will be celebrated during tight budget times.

With as many as 25,000 spectators lining the streets and 1,000 participants, San Jose's Rose, White and Blue Parade claims to be the region's biggest. It started out five years ago with much smaller numbers but has grown steadily. The $35,000 in costs are being covered mostly by private companies, although San Jose is contributing a modest $7,000. "I think it's awesome. It's been really fun to see all the kids and the bikes and all the military go by right now," said San Jose resident Jessica Roblas.

The parade is a showcase for youth programs across the city along with classic car collectors, musical groups, and politicians waving at their constituents. It also provided an opportunity for people to express their pride in being Americans. Asked what the Fourth of July means to her, 11-year-old Misty Santana said, "It means a day that we get to celebrate our independence, so we can show people what it means to us."

ABC7 News anchor Dan Ashley was the parade's grand marshal. He picked up a special feeling as he rode along the 1.7-mile parade route. "San Jose's a city of a million people as we know but it felt, as we mark the passing of Andy Griffith, a little bit like Mayberry up there today, very small town Americana in feel, really. Lots of patriotism, a lot of pride, and a great privilege for me," he said.

In Milpitas, fireworks have been a Fourth of July tradition for over 30 years, but the city's $9.2 million budget deficit wasn't able to support the show this year. Seven private businesses chipped in $45,000 to save the pyrotechnics. The remaining $25,000 will be raised by charging $3 per person admission. Having a fireworks show may also prevent grass fires set off by residents buying their own. "There's been a lot of grass fires in the South Bay and even though they've been small ones, it is always a fear, especially with the hills so close," Milpitas City Councilmember Althea Polanski said.

Several other Bay Area cities have also reinstituted their fireworks shows this year including Antioch and Livermore. Antioch also followed the lead of Milpitas. They also went to private industry to raise the money to put their show on.

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