ITHACA, N.Y. — This year’s Ithaca Community Fireworks at Stewart Park brought together hundreds of community members for Ithaca’s annual Independence Day celebration.

Unlike previous years, the celebration lacked food tents, games and other forms of entertainment. But that didn’t stop hundreds from filling Stewart Park to view the fireworks display.

In fact, some Ithacans appreciated the celebration’s perks being rolled back.

“I think it’s great that there are no vendors, it makes it less commercial,” said Marjorie Hoffman.

Other attendees argued that if the event had better funding sources, it would have included include more than just the bare minimum of a fireworks show.

“I think $5.00 for admission to the fireworks would be great,” said Rick O’Neill, speculating that such a fee would allow the celebration to have live music and other attractions.

The event — staffed by volunteers and funded wholly by donations from the community — raised over $20,000 through an urgent online fundraising campaign in the days leading up to the event. Dozens of locals rallied to the cause, making small donations in order to ensure that the time-honored July 4 tradition would continue another year. However, funding constraints led to the elimination of a variety of perks usually offered at the event.

Jim King, a donor to the crowdfunding campaign and an Ithaca local, wasn’t bothered by the rollbacks. He said that the celebration is much more than an attraction for entertainment purposes.

“It’s about independence,” said King.

As he watched the sunset over Cayuga Lake in anticipation of the fireworks, he reflected on the ideals that underpin July 4 festivities — ideals which he feels are all too often forgotten.

“My father fought in World War Two, and he was in the heat of it. He appreciated the Fourth of July and fireworks displays… because they’re celebrations of life.”

All photos by Benjamin Jackson. The fireworks photos were taken from a boat via Ithaca Boat Tours. For more information about the tours, click here.