NEWBURYPORT — With Yankee Homecoming’s final events including Saturday night’s fireworks and Sunday’s parade, organizers are hoping for a strong finish to this year’s festival.
The fireworks are scheduled to light up the sky over the Merrimack River at 9:15 p.m. on Saturday, and Yankee Homecoming vice president Jason Lacroix said that just like every year, he expects to hear a chorus of “oohs” and “aahs” resounding from spectators along the waterfront and aboard boats on the river.
“I’m always excited for fireworks, so this happens to be my favorite event of the week,” said Lacroix. “The reaction is always huge. When the finale goes off, and you hear the amount of people’s boats blowing their horns and people cheering in the distance, it’s pretty impressive.”
This year’s fireworks show will again be put on by New Hampshire-based Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group, Inc., which has created the Yankee Homecoming fireworks for the past two decades.
“They continue to outdo themselves every single year,” said Lacroix, remarking on the event’s continuing popularity among residents and visitors.
While he couldn’t put his finger on what the typical crowd size looked like, Lacroix recalled that in previous years, even less-than-perfect weather couldn’t deter people from turning out for the show.
“The crowd is always huge. Year after year you can see the amount of people lining the shore and the bridge,” said Lacroix. “Last year there were some clouds and showers, but it didn’t warn too many people off.”
The show will also include a free concert in Waterfront Park from The Blue Note Big Band, a 17-piece group that will play a selection of classic Americana music.
Lacroix said Yankee Homecoming organizers are still accepting donations for the fireworks show, which costs about $25,000 to put on each year.
The traditional parade along High Street will kick off Sunday at noon, and will close the Yankee Homecoming festivities.
Beginning at the intersection of Moseley Avenue and Ferry Road, the parade route follows High Street in Newburyport and ends at Federal Street. With sirens and horns blaring fire engines from the city and many area towns will lead off the procession that also includes Yankee Homecoming staff, volunteers of the year, local bands, floats, performances and more.
In addition to the parade’s annual Jimmy Fund collection, Pennies for Poverty will be collecting non-perishable foods for local pantries during the parade in decorated shopping carts.
Lacroix has hopes for a solid turnout for the parade, which he said has increasingly struggled to draw spectators and volunteers for about a decade.
“I think it’s going to be a bit bigger than the past couple of years,” he said. “We tried to budget some extra money to build the parade back up.”
Lacroix noted that this year’s parade route is about is about two-and-a-half miles long, one-half mile shorter than previous years when it ended at Marlboro Street. He said that in the past, the length of the parade route has deterred some groups from marching, and that he hopes the shorter trek will make it a more “user-friendly” experience for participants.
Lacroix highlighted the parade as a key Yankee Homecoming tradition, but said its future is in jeopardy because of the decreased interest from residents and visitors.
“I think its role in Newburyport is historic. The parade predates Yankee Homecoming by 10 years,” said Lacroix, recalling the parade’s origins as the first Jimmy Fund fundraiser.
“The parade going away is on the table at this point if spectatorship and volunteership don’t increase, and that’s a sad thing,” he said. “Hopefully we can get the region to re-embrace this.”
Lacroix recalled “the old days” of the parade, when neighborhoods would assemble to create floats of their own, and when the streets would be lined with residents’ chairs by Old Fashioned Sunday.
“Now, we’re not seeing people start to put chairs out until Wednesday or Thursday” before the Sunday event, said Lacroix, adding that he has continued to see gaps in the crowd along High Street in recent years, as well as some empty chairs.
“A lot of people came out for the 50th anniversary, and we’ve seen it dwindling since then,” said Lacroix. “And with the Jimmy Fund collections, we used to get between about $4,500 and $6,000, now it’s around $2,000.
For more information, or to donate to the fireworks show, visit http://yankeehomecoming.com. Donations may also be mailed to Yankee Homecoming, LLC at PO Box 493 in Newburyport.
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.