Jun. 28, 2023 By Gabriele Holtermann
Queens residents got a head start in celebrating America’s independence with a pyrotechnic extravaganza at the Bayside waterfront in Fort Totten Park on June 27.
Gates opened at 5 p.m. and a stream of guests equipped with lawn chairs and blankets flocked to the vast lawn overlooking Little Neck Bay for t.
Young and old lounged on the green, listening and dancing to live music performed by Chicken Head Rocks, Phil Costa and the Something Special Big Band, the 380th Army Band, and DJ Russell Targove, and enjoying food provided by various food trucks before the fireworks.
“The Firework by Grucci” show launched at 9:15 p.m. from a barge on Little Neck Bay.
The COVID-19 pandemic had halted the annual tradition, and park goers and elected officials alike were thrilled that the festivities commemorating the Declaration of Independence had returned after a four-year hiatus and life had returned to “normal.”
The event was sponsored by Councilwoman Vickie Paladino and Parker Jewish Institute and hosted by the Bayside Historical Society and the Queens Chamber of Commerce.
Former Councilman Paul Vallone launched the event in 2015, and his successor Vickie Paladino shared that it had been her dream to bring the festivities back ever since she took office.
“To have the community come together like this is truly a gift,” Paladino said. “And it’s a gift that I won’t ever forget.”
Tom Grech, president & CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, said they expected between 8,000 and 10,000 people to attend, with the NYPD and FDNY ensuring the safety of the park revelers. Grech shared that everyone was looking forward to a “great resurgence” of the event, which took about six months of planning.
“It’s a lot. But you know, it’s a labor of love because it’s good for our businesses. A lot of vendors are here tonight. So it’s all good,” Grech said.
Paul DiBenedetto said the fireworks would have gone on if it hadn’t been for the pandemic.
“I just hope for everybody to have the best time they could possibly have and to enjoy each other as a community, the best community in all of New York City,” DiBendetto said.
Bayside resident Lenore attended the event with her friend Julia from Whitestone and had attended the fireworks a few times before the pandemic.
“I think everyone needs to get back together and enjoy this place and what we are given,” Lenore said.