Astoria to celebrate July 4 with early fireworks

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It will not quite be Independence Day when the fireworks explode over the East River Thursday, but for those who have traveled to Astoria Park for the pre-July 4 celebration over the last 29 years, it is a crucial part of the holiday.

“It’s the second greatest fireworks in New York City,” City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said.

This year the event, hosted by Central Astoria Local Development Coalition Inc., will start at 7:30 p.m. along the Astoria Park waterfront. This is the 29th year of the festival. Astoria Park is located along Shore Boulevard and 19th Street between Ditmars Boulevard and Hoyt Avenue.

The Grucci Family, a Long Island-based fireworks company, will be lighting up the sky over the East River, the only display over the river this year for the holiday. The fireworks will be shot off from an FDNY fireboat while the Astoria Symphony Orchestra, a 50-piece band, will accompany the show.

“We are delighted that the Astoria Symphony Orchestra, the best-kept secret in western Queens, will be performing in the neighborhood they call home,” George Stamatiades, president of Central Astoria, said in a statement.

Marie Torniali, executive director of Central Astoria, said local vendors will also be selling food during the event.

The fireworks are a huge draw for the neighborhood. Torniali said last year close to 20,000 came out to see the fireworks.

Even though the event is held a full four days before the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Torniali said the celebration is held early for those who leave the city for the three-day holiday weekend, or are at other events such as the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks over the Hudson River.

“They’re used to having it this day,” Torniali said of those who come annually. “It’s usually in or around the 30th.”

Torniali said the date also allows the Astoria celebration to be “the first one out on Independence Day.”

“I’m as excited as I am every year,” Vallone said, “both by the fireworks and the fact that we’re going to make it happen again.”

Astoria’s fireworks display kicks off Central Astoria’s Waterfront Concert Series, which is also held annually. Vallone, Borough President Helen Marshall and eight corporate sponsors help finance the series of live music on the waterfront, which runs every Thursday from July 14 to Aug. 11.

Some performers within the series include the George Gee Swing Orchestra, the Nashville Attitude, Joey Dee and The Starliters and the Manhattan Skyline.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 11:07 am, October 12, 2011
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