WOONSOCKET – With scant cash to spare for frills in this struggling town, the mayor is resorting to a novel method of raising money to finance a Fourth of July fireworks display.
Mostly, it involves dinner, dancing, and cocktails, not necessarily in that order.
It’s Mayor Leo T. Fontaine’s Charity Ball, scheduled to take place April 27 at the historic St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center.
Fontaine said he decided to skip the Inaugural Ball this year, a traditional opportunity to recognize the city’s progress, and switch to a charity ball. The event is mainly designed to raise money for a fireworks display in honor of the city’s war veterans on July 4 at World War II Veterans Memorial State Park, according to the mayor.
Previously the city has raised close to $14,000 from prior fundraisers aimed at underwriting the fireworks display, an event which, until a few years ago, was routinely included in the city budget. The city’s financial condition has steadily deteriorated since then, with officials now openly debating the merits of issuing a supplemental tax bill versus bankruptcy.
Though invitations have been sent out to all individuals and corporate donors who’ve previously chipped in, the ball is an open-invitation event.
“It is a privilege to announce that this 2012 Charity Ball will be held in commemoration of our veterans and the freedoms they have protected,” invitation letters say. “With generous support of people like you, our community will be able to continue to celebrate our freedom and those veterans who fought to protect it.”
The event will be held at the St. Ann Arts & Cultural Center, the landmark church on Cumberland Street that was decommissioned by the Diocese of Providence over a decade ago. Now operated as a nonprofit venue for the dramatic arts, music and other cultural events, the church is a living canvas for one of the largest collections of fresco paintings in the U.S. and is often likened to the Sistine Chapel. The cultural center is donating the facility to the city at no charge.
“Because of this we are able to lower the ticket price, understanding that these are very difficult times,” said Fontaine. “This is an opportunity to take a break from our day-to-day struggles and celebrate something positive about the community.”
Tickets for individuals are $25 ($10 less than the last fundraising ball), $50 for couples ($15 less).
The event includes a cocktail hour, from 6-7 p.m., followed by dinner, with catering by Gary McLaughlin, owner of Kevin’s Galley, with dancing to the jazzy sounds of “Swing City” until midnight. For tickets or more information contact the mayor’s office at 767-9205.