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Groton celebration rescued by large donation from local utility

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GROTON - Typically, at least 10,000 people pack the hillside inside Groton's Fort Griswold for an annual pre-fireworks celebration.

Slashed budgets nearly caused this decades long tradition to fizzle.

"Unfortunately, the Groton Parks and Recreation budget was cut 8.4 percent from last year," said Kate Bradley, of the Groton Parks and Recreation Department.

The cut equates to roughly $200,000. So, with no businesses stepping up to pick up the $8,300 price tag, it was announced on the Groton Town P & R Facebook page that the event would be shelved.

"I grew up nearby, in Gales Ferry, and this is where my family came every year to watch the fireworks," said Bradley.

However, the Fort Griswold Celebration on the Thames will continue. Groton Utilities, serving the water and electricity needs of two-thirds of greater Groton, flipped the switch back to the "on" position by footing the entire bill.

"We thought that this annual greater Groton community event should go on uninterrupted," said Frank Winkler, the company's spokesperson. As a Groton native, he's thrilled.

"This (the hillside) is perhaps one of the greatest view points, along the Thames River, looking out onto the estuary," he said.

It's only fitting that a celebration of our country's independence would continue here at Fort Griswold, since this was an American Revolution battle site.

Despite the large crowds, area residents can't wait for July 9.

"I'm so excited that you actually just informed me that it was back on, said Michelle Mokrzewski, who moved into the neighborhood that borders Fort Griswold last September.

"It's something that this community needs. We have a lot of hard-working, blue-collar people and professionals in this area. This is, you know, the big event," Mokrzewski said.

In fact, the home she purchased, where she now lives, belonged to one of her descendants, who was killed fighting in the Revolutionary War at Fort Griswold.

Organizers say spectators will start congregating around noon on Saturday, July 9. A stage will be set up for a live concert, which gets underway at 6 p.m.

Click here to see when and where other Connecticut communities are celebrating Independence Day.