Volume 17 • Issue 6 | July 2 - 8, 2004

Downtown fireworks and free concerts for July 4

By Erica Stein

Independence Day is being celebrated with a variety of traditions old and new in Lower Manhattan. It is after all the place where George Washington bid farewell to his troops and later took the nation’s first presidential oath and where British troops began their final evacuation after losing the Revolutionary War.

From noon on Saturday through Sunday night, from the 28th annual Macy’s Fireworks to the first concert by the TriBattery Pops, there will be performances, parades, tours and fireworks all over Downtown.

Macy’s will present its 28th annual “fireworks spectacular” at 9 p.m. on July 4. This year’s show, titled “Light of Freedom,” will feature over 120,000 fireworks, which will be launched from just below the South Street Seaport at Piers 16 and 17. The F.D.R. Drive will be closed to traffic and open to pedestrians from the South Ferry station to the Pearl St. ramp. The fireworks will be visible from any point in Manhattan south of the Brooklyn Bridge, with the better spots including the F.D.R. and the Seaport. Macy’s will have two other launch locations this year: one at 34th St. and the East River and one in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, which should be visible from Battery Park City and Battery Park.

Before the fireworks, the River to River Festival continues its series of free concerts on the lawn of Battery Park at the tip of Manhattan. On Sunday afternoon, country legend Lyle Lovett will play older work as well as new songs from his recent album “My Baby Don’t Tolerate.” The concert, organized by the Downtown Alliance, is free and gates open to the public at 2 p.m. Tuscon country group Calexico will open at 4. Lovett will take the stage at 5 p.m.

There will be another free concert that afternoon, beginning at 5:30 in Washington Market Park in the gazebo near Greenwich and Chambers Sts. Community Board 1 member Tom Goodkind formed The TriBattery Pops in February and recruited members for the now 17-member band through postings in community papers and flyers in mailboxes. Named after Tribeca and Battery Park City where all but one of the members live, TriBattery Pops is a traditional acoustic orchestra.

On July 4 they will perform John Philip Sousa marches, show tunes and one piece composed by Goodkind, who arranges all of the music played by the group. Goodkind says they have had their eyes on the park gazebo since the beginning. “We always looked at it and thought ‘what a great place. Why not have a band play there?’” The concert is open to all ages. Free flags will be handed out to children in the audience during the concert and lawn chairs are encouraged.

Parades and Tours
After last year’s cancellation, the 3rd annual Chinatown Independence Day Parade and Festival starts things off a day early, celebrating 120 years of Chinese-American culture on July 3.
Organizer Steven Wong will give opening remarks at 10 a.m. near the beginning of the parade route at Division and Bowery, followed by a performance of “America the Beautiful” by Korean American singer Jin Yin Shu and a rendition of the national anthem by Chinese American singer-songwriter Kevin So at 10:30.

The parade will also be preceded by Korean dances at 10:40 and Eric Friedman the event’s spokesperson, notes that “this year, it’s shaping up to be more of a pan-Asian thing, which is nice.”

The parade itself – which will feature floats, dragon and lion dances, bands and community organizations – begins at noon at Division St. and Bowery. It will then proceed down Bowery and through Canal St., Mott St., Chatham Square, East Broadway and Market St. before concluding on Division St. at about 1:30. The celebration will continue in Columbus Park until 4:30 with a festival. There will be live music, dance performances, karaoke and martial arts demonstrations.

The next day, from noon to 5 on July 4, there will be a variety of street festivals across Chinatown. Organized by the Better Chinatown Society, the corners of Mott and Canal , Bayard and Bowery, and Pell and Mott Sts. will host Chinese dragon and lion dances until 1 p.m., when the festival will continue on Bayard St. with cultural events. There will be Asian drum performances, as well as a variety of traditional and pop live entertainment throughout the afternoon until 5 p.m.

Fraunces Tavern Museum, the site where Washington said goodbye to his troops, will also start their Independence Day activities early, with lawyer and historian Jim Kaplan leading his eighth late night walking tour of Downtown Revolutionary War sites.

Beginning July 4 at 2 a.m. (an hour after Saturday Night Live ends) near City Hall at Broadway and Park Pl., Kaplan will explain the city’s often overlooked significant role in the war. “We do the tour in the middle of the night because there’s no one on the street and it’s easier to summon up the ghosts of the revolution,” says Kaplan.

From City Hall, where Kaplan will give a 5-10 minute overview of the City’s history from 1624 to 1776, the walking tour will continue in Foley Sq. with a discussion of Thomas Paine, whom Kaplan said “was born in poverty in England and died in poverty in America but in between with ‘Common Sense’ he transformed the Revolution from a conflict among Boston merchants into a movement with broad popular backing.” Then on to the Brooklyn Bridge and a recounting of Washington’s evacuation of 10,000 troops from Brooklyn Heights.

The centerpiece of Kaplan’s tour is Trinity Church and the unmarked grave of Gen. Horatio Gates, who won the battle of Saratoga and, says Kaplan, is an overlooked hero. The tour, which drew 85 people last year, concludes back at the Fraunces Museum around 6 a.m. Tickets are $20 for non-museum members and $15 for members. For tickets and information, call the Fraunces Tavern Museum at (212) 425-1778.


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