Braintree will see a new route and shifted lineup for its 4th of July Parade this year after concerns over rising costs led to a change in leadership.
Since it returned to Braintree after an 18-year hiatus in 2008, the parade has grown from a few bands and groups costing about $24,000 to an event last year that cost nearly $80,000 and featured more than a dozen bugle corps from around the country, along with other parade bands and performers from throughout New England.
John Robinson, a Navy veteran and retired MBTA worker who volunteered as director for the last five years, said his goal was to make Braintree's parade one of the premiere in Massachusetts. But he resigned earlier this year after a disagreement with others involved with the parade and the annual fireworks celebration that follows.
"I finally got it where I wanted it, and that's it," Robinson said.
Robinson said he was asked to significantly reduce the parade's budget by Mayor Joseph Sullivan and Celebration Committee Chair Sean Powers. They contended, he said, that the parade can be run less expensively without reducing its quality by eliminating a number of the bugle corps, some of which come from as far away as Canada and New York.
The town's portion of both the parade and celebration budget was set last year at $35,000, with the remaining costs covered by fundraising. Last year, however, fundraising did not keep up and the Town Council approved for remaining costs.
This year, the parade's allocation will be $40,000, a boost that comes thanks to a "major partnership" with the town and Mayor Sullivan that marks the event's 40th anniversary, Powers said.
"We want to have a good fireworks display, so you have to balance out the money in that way," Sullivan said. “It’s going to be a huge civic pride day. Not only for America, but for Braintree.”
The celebration committee is also kicking off a $35,000 fundraising effort that will feature upcoming events yet to be announced and highlight the group's new charitable designation, which allows tax-deductible contributions.
"We’re going to have parade that everyone can be proud of," Powers said.
By reducing bugle corps costs, the organizers will be able to bring in a wider variety of performers, including a World War II re-enactment troop that will have an actual tank driving down Washington Street, Powers said.
The route will also change. It will likely stop at Washington and Franklin streets instead of continuing down Franklin and then to the high school. Performers will be able to de-assemble near Sunset Lake.
Ed “Dizzy Eddy” Kelley, who has DJ'd the afternoon and evening festivities at Braintree High following the parade for the last several years, has taken over as parade director. He will be compensated, but not out of the $40,000 appropriation, Powers said.
Kelley has directed Scituate's 4th of July Parade since 1999 and last year helped organize Milton's 350th anniversary parade.
Braintree's parade this year will be in some ways similar to the others he has run, Kelly said. Though some of the more expensive bugle corps are being pared down, he said there will be plenty of performers.
"I think the people will be pleasantly pleased with the entertainment this year," Kelley said.
The disagreement over the parade's direction began last year when Robinson said he looked for more support fundraising and was left to raise money nearly on his own. The celebration committee did its fundraising separately, he said.
Then in January, Robinson said he was asked to trim expenses. He said he was willing to compromise, to bring costs down to the $50,000 range, but was unable to communicate effectively with Powers, grew frustrated and stepped down.
"I think I got forced out," Robinson said.
Powers disagreed with that version of events and said that he and Robinson's schedules simply did not click for a few weeks.
"John wasn’t pushed out, he resigned on his own," Powers said. “We are extremely grateful for all of the service he has done for the parade over the years. We just had a difference of opinion on the budget.”
Added Sullivan, "Robinson has been a real foundation and builder of this town-wide celebration and deserves our thanks for his efforts.”
For more information on the parade and how to donate, go to www.braintrees4th.org.