Updated 07/04/2012 07:31 PM
Oneonta celebrates national and hometown pride on the Fourth
From its beginnings 20 years ago, Oneonta's Independence Day celebration has grown into a major event. More than 10,000 were expected to head to Neahwa Park Wednesday to pay tribute to the USA, but it's also a time to reflect on what makes their city unique. Our Sarah Blazonis has more from this year's Hometown Fourth of July.
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ONEONTA, N.Y. -- The spirit was definitely American, but the look, taste and sound of Neahwa Park Wednesday was all about Oneonta.
"It's really neat to see everybody in the community come together like this. A lot of the not-for-profits come down to the park and help bring this day together," said city resident Ben Guenther, who came out to celebrate the holiday at the annual Hometown Fourth of July celebration.
This year marks the event's 20th anniversary. Up to 15,000 people were expected to come out to see what Oneonta has to offer.
"We have an arts festival here, we have a ton of music, we have all these charitable organizations that are here to show what they do best," said David Hayes, a volunteer with the organizing group, First Night.
"I think Oneonta is on the verge of kind of turning into a hub or arts and culture in the area and I feel that's really saving us from kind of that abandoned Main Street look that's happening in a number of other communities," said First Night Board Member Carol Mandigo.
The event has also become a go-to spot for local non-profits looking to raise funds for special projects.
"I know a lot of people in the community and that helps. A lot of friends that I have and a lot of people that I know really come out to these kind of things," said resident Nevin Henderson. He was part of a group raising money for a mission trip to Joplin, MO, to repair damage from last year's tornadoes.
Whatever their reason for coming, the thousands of visitors who make their way to Neahwa Park every year also provide a boost for tourism, a local industry officials are trying to strengthen.
"Visitors and others that come here today can see this is a great community that comes together. There's a lot to offer in this community and that means good things economically," said State Senator James Seward.
Good things and more to look forward to in the next 20 years.
Organizers say the hometown celebration also boasts one of the biggest fireworks displays in the area. The half hour-long show begins at 9:20 p.m. Wednesday.