GASPORT — For 34 years, Hartland Supervisor Bill Annable watched the park across the road from his office slowly develop into the family sports complex he envisioned. Next week Annable will have a heavenly seat for the huge Independence Day Celebration in town that includes the dedication of William A. Annable Memorial Athletic Fields.
The former Barker and Roy-Hart coach parlayed his athletic skills into a physical education scholarship at the University at Buffalo. As town supervisor he worked tirelessly to provide the ball fields and community areas in Hartland Town Park. His dream was to light the fields for night games, and the grant to fund them was secured before his death in 2013. On the Fourth of July, everyone is invited to the new spot for the Gasport area's celebration — and the wider area’s best fireworks show.
For 14 previous years, the crowds that attended the celebration at Royalton Ravine Park kept expanding. Shuttle buses were needed to get thousands of visitors to the park and nearby residents were inconvenienced by the crush of party-goers. Drainage issues in the low-lying park made further expansion of the festivities impossible. Late last summer, the Fourth of July Committee decided to find a close alternative, and chose the expansive Hartland Town Park as the gathering place for the celebration.
“We are really excited about the change in venue,” committee chairman Matt Snell said, “and we hope everyone will come to take advantage of the event. We had a lot of wonderful years at the ravine and many fond memories, and we’re building and expanding on that. We’re also moving up the start time so families can make a day of it. There will be three live bands, food trucks and vendors and activities for children, so we hope everyone has a great time.”
Parking and getting out of the gridlock after the fireworks have been an issue in the past, but according to current Hartland Town Supervisor Ross Annable, the town is ready.
“We have a huge area for vehicles right in the park, allowing people to bring their coolers and chairs close to their spots. We will have the Middleport Police directing traffic to ease the exit and ancillary services like first aid, EMT, ambulance and traffic assistance by the Hartland Volunteer Fire Company. We want this to be a family-friendly, safe experience for everyone,” he said.
Hartland Volunteer Fire Co. will have its own chicken barbecue at noon at the fire hall, which is next to the park. The meal price is $9. At 3 p.m., the volunteers will start selling Italian sausage (with onions and peppers) for gathering festival-goers. Proceeds will support the company's Jaws of Life fund.
In the park, families will find face painting, arts and crafts, a clown, Niagara County Sheriff’s bloodhound demonstrations, kickball for kids on the sports field and plenty of space to enjoy the lush park. About a dozen food vendors will feature a variety of foods and non-alcoholic beverages as well as ice cream.
Support by local businesses and organizations is essential for the community celebration, and organizers are thankful for their donations. The only on-site fundraiser for the event itself is the sale of freshly roasted ears of first-of-the-season locally grown corn.
“Harris Farms is donating all the corn to help us out, and it’s a local favorite," Snell said. "We want folks to remember to bring chairs or blankets to watch the fireworks and enjoy the park, but we’ll have everything else on hand to make it easy for families to enjoy the day without a lot of hassle."
“Our hard-working committee is trying to get the invitation out to everyone in our local communities. The fireworks by Skylighters of WNY will be the biggest and best yet. We want it to be a memorable night.”
The fireworks display will be launched from the northwest end of the park at dusk or 10 p.m. July 4.
Ross Annable thinks his dad would be very proud to welcome the community to the traditional family Fourth of July celebration in Hartland. “He would be happy to see those kids on the fields and in the stands and enjoying family time together. It’s the all-American way to spend Independence Day.”
For information about the celebration, contact Matt Snell at 870-3379. Handicapped parking will be available.
If you go
Gasport's Independence Day Celebration will be held on July 4 at Hartland Town Park, Ridge Road. The schedule of events includes:
• 3 p.m., start of activities
• 3:15 p.m., dedication of William A. Annable Memorial Athletic Fields
• 3:30 p.m.. music by Mike Hartman and the Good Ol’ Boys
• 5:15 p.m., music by Last Call
• 7 p.m., music by Rocket 88
• 10 p.m., fireworks