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Orchestra's demise casts doubt over Thompson Park event

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For 27 years, as fireworks blasted above Thompson Park, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra performed Tchaikovsky's "War of 1812 Overture" and cannons from Fort Drum were fired as a part of Watertown's Independence Day celebration.

But the void caused by the symphony going bankrupt also may mean the end of Watertown's July Fourth festivities.

For the past several years, the symphony pretty much ran the show, with help from the city and from business sponsors, former Watertown Mayor T. Urling Walker said. Sponsors over the years have included Hampton Inn, Watertown Savings Bank, National Grid, Benefit Services Group, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Community Bank N.A. and Kinney Drugs.

Mr. Walker, who started the event 27 years ago, said Monday that he's heard nothing about anyone trying to organize this year's celebration, which traditionally was held either immediately before the Fourth of July or a day or two afterward because the symphony always had a commitment for that day.

"I would gather it's up in the air," he said.

In recent days, City Manager Mary Corriveau said, she's received a few phone calls from people inquiring about this year's event, but she doesn't know whether anyone will step forward to take it over. She said it was never a city-sponsored event.

City police, fire and public works crews provided the logistics, while others actually put it on. The city also didn't contribute any funding, Mrs. Corriveau said.

She said she has heard about a couple of musical organizations that might be interested in performing that night, but no details have yet emerged. The company that provided the fireworks also was wondering about what was happening this year, Mrs. Corriveau said. She planned to call Mr. Walker about it to see if it could be saved.

It will be difficult because the orchestra manager, Richard Decker, moved on to the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra just before the symphony suspended the remainder of its season.

He was a major organizer of the Thompson Park event, Mr. Walker said.

Thousands of people have always attended the festivities. They sang patriotic songs and the event featured a rally for the troops. Local organizations also used the event as a fundraiser by selling hot dogs and other refreshments.

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