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The Daily Tar Heel

Town ?rework festival returns

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Fourth of July Celebrations.

Kenan Stadium was empty last year on the Fourth of July, but town officials are preparing to host a revival of the fireworks festivities this year.

Though the annual celebration was cancelled last year due to budget constraints, the town’s partnership with 1360 WCHL, a local radio station that owns Chapelboro.com, has allowed for its return.

The event will include live music performed by Chapel Hill native and voice of the Carolina Panthers Mick Mixon and the Franklin Street Band.

There will be face painting, a juggling Uncle Sam stilt walker, glow necklaces for the first 10,000 attendees courtesy of Grace Church and a watermelon-eating contest that will end in a championship match performed for the crowd.

The display of 6,393 fireworks will begin at 9:30 p.m.

Ron Stutts of WCHL will host the festivities.

Lauren Stafford, WCHL’s marketing coordinator, said they began discussing reviving the celebration with town officials in 2011.

The discussion began after residents complained about the event’s cancellation during radio segments on WCHL, she said.

“A lot of people went up to talk about how they were upset that the local family tradition didn’t happen,” Stafford said.

Stafford said though WCHL played a role in past fireworks celebrations, they will have a much larger presence this year.

“We’ve offered some clients a VIP area, and people who we’ve gotten to be donors or contributors to the event will be coming out,” she said.

This year’s event will cost the town of Chapel Hill $43,000.

Though the funds were included in the 2012-13 fiscal year budget, the town has already raised over $11,000, said Ray Kisiah Jr., director of the Chapel Hill Department of Parks and Recreation.

Kisiah said the town will set up donation boxes at the gates to the stadium to help offset the cost of the event. Individual attendees can donate $1 upon entry and families of more than five can donate $5, though Stafford said donations are voluntary.

“Nobody will be turned away — it is a free event,” she said.

Kisiah said they will decide whether to continue with the donation system based on the response to it this year.

“We will make that determination as we move into the fall,” he said.

Wes Tilghman, the town’s festival and events supervisor, said many of the donations already given came from local businesses and were thanks to the work of Barry Leffler, the WCHL CEO.

Stafford said she hoped the donation system would help residents show their appreciation for the work put into the event.

“It’s about getting people to understand that a lot of time, money, effort and people working on the holidays goes into this,” she said. “Having people understand that, appreciate it, and then enjoy it.”

Stafford said when WCHL saw an opportunity to help bring back that tradition, they jumped on it.

Kisiah said he enjoyed the event and is looking forward to it.

“I walk around and get to look at people’s faces,” Kisiah said.

“It’s really neat to see all the families that come out together and are enjoying being together on our nation’s birthday,” he said. “That is what I look forward to seeing.”

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Contact the City Editor at city@dailytarheel.com.