SOMERS, N.Y.--With far fewer residents attending and a lot shorter hours, Somers’ Independence Day observance is no longer the day-long celebration it once was. Now, town and civic leaders are asking what can be done to restore the event’s one-time luster.

At a meeting last week at the Van Tassell House, some 17 attendees appeared to agree on two points: They do not want to scrap the event but it must draw a bigger crowd.

“We just about broke even this year,” said Jim Corning, first vice president of the Somers Lions Club, which for years has been a principal sponsor of the celebration.

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“We don’t really want to give it up,” Corning told those at the Sept. 12 gathering. “That’s not our purpose here. But we also can’t really afford to have it cost us a lot of money.”

Attendance this year, when the observance was staged on June 24 in Reis Park and did not begin until 3 p.m., was estimated at about 800 people. “Almost adding insult to injury,” Supervisor Rick Morrissey said, “there were about 200 people who never made it to the park. They parked at the high school or Primrose [Elementary School], where we had a bus waiting to take them to the park.” 

Instead, the supervisor said, people who were potential consumers of food purchased by the Lions Club fed themselves from a private concessionaire, who parked his truck near the satellite school parking area.

Reduced attendance cuts into both the revenue needed to offset food costs as well as the Lions Club’s profit on a popular car raffle.

“We cover basically all of the costs of the event,” Corning said, from buying the food sold at the concession stand to renting the Dumpster that hauls away the trash. The town covers the fireworks’ $10,000 cost.

PepsiCo, which left Somers two years ago, continues to write a check to the Lions for $5,000 and to provide sodas and water for the event. The Lions, in turn, use those funds to make fixed annual donations to local charities, award scholarships to Somers High School seniors and even provide immediate, small-scale assistance to residents in sudden need.

Councilman Anthony J. Cirieco urged the ad hoc committee to focus on sagging attendance. 

“We’re talking about broadening the day’s activities,” he noted. “We’re talking about maybe making it a larger day again.” 

But, Cirieco said, drawing in more people should be the No. 1 priority.

He suggested enlisting the help of civic associations in each of the town’s neighborhoods to spread the word and generate increased interest.

Corning said of the Lions Club, “Our goal in all of this is to try to figure out how we can draw more people into the park and keep them there.”