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Free July 2 concert at WNEC part of Fourth celebration

Date: 6/30/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Joined by a group of school children touring City Hall, Judith Matt of the Spirit of Springfield looked at them and said, "This is who we do the fireworks for -- for you."

Matt presided over a press conference last week to announce the city's annual July Fourth fireworks display and also a free performance on July 2 at Western New England College of the Spirit of America band.

Both Matt and Mayor Domenic Sarno noted that other communities have canceled their fireworks due to the economy, but Springfield hasn't thanks to the financial support of MassMutual Financial Group, Tower Square and the Springfield Business District, among other sponsors.

The fireworks will be presented at 9 p.m. from the Memorial Bridge with Mix93.1 FM providing a musical simulcast.

Trish Robinson, senior vice president, Strategic Communications and Community Responsibility and deputy head of Government Relations at MassMutual, said the company has been a sponsor of the event since 2006 and that it has not decreased its charitable giving.

She noted the insurance and financial giant is donating $7 million to various events and organizations this year and that $5 million of that amount stays in Springfield.

Steve Roulier, the assistant vice president for marketing and external affairs at Western England College, said the college was pleased to contribute to the festivities with it sponsorship of the Spirit of America. The free hour-long performance will be at 8 p.m. at the Golden Bear Stadium at the college and is designed for the entire family.

The band is an award winning all volunteer multi-generational group from Orleans. Its performance, "Exploration," combines music with theater, dance, costumes and a full set.

The music ranges songs from the movie "Shrek" to Rachmaninoff's second piano concert.

Sarno said it was important for the city to maintain this tradition.

"Springfield is the lead city of Western Massachusetts and we need to act as a lead city," Sarno said. "It sends a worse message if we canceled the fireworks."