By Joseph A. Curtatone
(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville Times belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville Times, its staff or publishers)
A great Somerville tradition continues on Thursday, July 3, when we strike up the bands at Trum Field for the annual Fourth of July fireworks. Performances by the Somerville SunSetters, Booty Vortex, the USO Metropolitan New York Performers, and the U.S. Navy Band Northeast Pops Ensemble will entertain the crowd before the fireworks fill the sky. Ten years ago, we brought back this cherished celebration after a more than 20 year hiatus. Restoring this Somerville tradition is also part of a larger tradition—celebrating who we are.
We have seen Somerville succeed over the last ten years in part because we invest in community events. We know that these events are not only a fun activity for the people in our community but part of the way we proudly proclaim our identity. We are identified by who we are: A city rich in culture, creativity, and diversity that is woven from vibrant neighborhoods where people own the streets and squares. Successful communities identify and leverage their social capital—their identity and soul that makes the community an attractive place to live, work, play and raise a family. That’s what we are investing in when we hold events like the Fourth of July fireworks. We invest in and celebrate our quality of life, our people and our pride.
There’s also a bottom line financial benefit to supporting events. For every dollar spent on arts and culture, we see a return of three times or more in economic impacts. These events activate our neighborhoods and squares and, in turn, directly support our local businesses by celebrating these neighborhoods as destinations. It brings in people who might not have visited a while or ever before, raises the visibility and awareness of our local businesses, and makes people want to come back again and again.
If that sounds like these events cater to people from outside Somerville, keep in mind that even in four square miles, someone from Teele Square may not visit East Somerville that often, or vice versa. We want our residents to visit other neighborhoods and to also bring people from outside Somerville to our city. We want them to see what we offer. We want to celebrate every neighborhood for every resident.
And our Happiness Survey shows how important community events are to our residents. How people rated “Social Community Events” on the Happiness Survey was positively correlated to their happiness, city satisfaction, and neighborhood satisfaction. When asked “do you plan to move in the next two years,” the single best predictor of their response, apart from demographics, was how highly they rated the social community events. These events help create roots for people in the community. People who say they enjoy the events are much less likely to move away.
Part of the reason these events grow our residents’ roots in the community is the social connections created when we have events in our public spaces, parks and streets. The spell of screens in our lives, whether our mobile phone, tablet or computer, put information and social connectivity right at our fingertips, but the benefits of our technological age also have a downside when we’re always staring down at a screen instead of up and out at what’s all around us. Building a neighborhood and creating a sense of place is not just about the buildings, bike lanes and parks, but about our people. More simply, building a neighborhood means creating a place where you see familiar faces every day.
That’s why we restored our Fourth of July fireworks tradition and why we look forward to holding events throughout the year. Building community and a sense of place comes from that outside life, when people meet one another, socialize and perhaps ooh and ahh at the same fireworks. It comes from celebrating our identity, our culture and diversity, and our rich history. It’s being proud of where we’re from, who we are and making our neighborhoods more than roads to somewhere else. Events make our neighborhoods are destinations where people want to come—and stay. So I hope to see you out at Trum Field for this year’s fireworks and that you join us throughout the year for these great public events that celebrate Somerville.
The Somerville Independence Day Celebration is Thursday, July 3 (rain date July 10), on Broadway at Trum Field off Broadway between Ball and Magoun Squares. Live entertainment starts at 6 p.m. Fireworks start around 9:15 p.m.