Joe Strupp’s June 29th column, “Don’t be a Fireworks Thief, and Other July 4th Thoughts” was a dud. He berates those who can’t or don’t want to pay the admission fee to enter the Memorial Park but still deign to look skywards of “stealing as much as if you grabbed a cotton candy without paying or snuck into the circus.”  On behalf of the “fireworks scofflaws,” allow me to retort:

Since when did it become okay to charge an entrance fee to a public park owned by the people and maintained with tax dollars?  Public spaces exist for all, not just those who can pay $12-18 per person.  Perhaps this is pocket change for Mr. Strupp, but it adds up to real money for families.  It’s especially galling when they’re still charging $12 per person at 8:30 p.m., when all of the activities except for the fireworks have ended.

Mr. Strupp lauds Maplewood’s “great image of diversity, fairness, safety, and creativity.” So it’s especially ironic that on the day when we celebrate a document that most famously declares “all men are created equal,” there exists a distinct divide between those allowed inside and those left outside of Mr. Strupp’s precious fences. Let’s not pretend that the tickets don’t have a racial and class impact. In fact, it’s hard not to get the impression that keeping out the “undesirables” is the real point. 

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The need for funding simply rings hollow. Other events at the park manage to be free and open to the public. (The upcoming two day Maplewoodstock Festival at Memorial Park, for example, is according to its website, “100% self-supported by (1) our merch sales (t-shirts, hats, lawn signs), (2) our sponsors and advertisers, and (3) fees from our food and art vendors and band applicants.”)  As such, it’s hard to believe that local towns, businesses and concessions wouldn’t be able to cover the $32,000 cost for the July 4th events. 

Independence Day is one of the few occasions left in our country where all people, regardless of background or political persuasion, can come together to celebrate what makes America special.  It shouldn’t be reserved for those lucky enough to be on the right side of a fence.

Dan Salemson