AYER — Though torrential rains impaired its profitability, the Summer Festival held at Pirone Park had a high level of popularity, said members of the Fourth of July Committee.
According to committee Chairman Lucille DaCosta, the festival of vendors and rides was a popular throwback to the summer events of yesteryear that have been on hiatus for a generation.
“People in town were so happy to have something like this,” she said. “It’s been almost 20 years since we had something like this in town.”
While last weekend’s festival could be the beginning of a renewed tradition in Ayer, it marked the culmination of a year-long effort by the Fourth of July Committee to plan and fund the town’s annual holiday celebration, which will be held on July 1.
The itinerary includes a Main Street parade at 1 p.m. followed by vendors and entertainment at Pirone Park up until the fireworks display, which is scheduled for dusk.
“We have a lot of things that are going on,” said DaCosta.
The parade is slated to begin at Hannaford and move down Park and Main streets over to Pirone Park. The procession is scheduled to have approximately 30 participants plus youths that entered the bike decoration contest, which will join the parade from the Rail Trail parking lot.
In the bigger picture, DaCosta said planning for the parade benefited greatly from the coordinating work of 19-year-old Michael Ernst.
Ernst shrugged at his growing level of participation with the committee, and the work that went with it.
“It was a lot of phone calls, running around, trying to contact people,” he said. “A lot of people were happy to be asked to be in the parade it’s almost doubled since last year.”
The entertainment at Pirone Park begins Saturday, July 1, at 2 p.m., said DaCosta, and includes live music, a magician and other entertainment for children.
There will also be raffles for several prize baskets that are filled with items donated by local boosters. While Red Sox tickets and similar items in the raffles serve as another attraction, they are also part of the event committee’s year-round fund-raising effort, said Mary Spinner, the event’s financial coordinator.
Though town meeting stepped up with approximately $8,000 to cover the fireworks for this year, she said the celebration can expect approximately $5,000 in other expenses, which the committee works to meet through a variety of fund-raising efforts year-round.
Further, Spinner said there’s no guarantee that town meeting will show similar largess next year, and the committee plans for the worst-case scenario.
“We have to anticipate that there will be no money next year,” she said. “If you go under the presumption we need to raise everything, (then) we want to end this year with a minimum of $8,000 in the revolving fund.”
Figures from the Summer Festival are not yet final since bills for police detail have yet to be settled, said Spinner. Four hours were canceled on Saturday, she said, which was anticipated as being the biggest day.
“The opening night we had a very good crowd. Gross ticket sales were almost $4,900,” she said. “Had we had even three out of the four days like that, there was the opportunity for us to make somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.”
As for another Summer Festival next year, sources on the committee were non-committal. Spinner said there were already plenty of requests, but that any further event would need to be planned with the Parks Commission.
There was handful of local summer events to choose from that were regularly held while she was growing up in Ayer, said DaCosta, and it’s likely the group will try something similar next year.
“That’s our goal, to get more community activities like when I was young,” she said. “We’re trying to get it back to that.”
The rain date for the event is July 8, said Spinner, but she’s hoping it won’t be necessary.
“I’m just holding my breath for (this) Saturday,” she said.