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New Kensington’s June 30 fireworks will honor police, early advocate

April 11, 2018 GMT

The annual New Kensington fireworks display will feature a tribute to the police in its opening sequence this year.

Erika Plunkett, who is overseeing fundraising for the event, said the Tribute to Blue sequence is in honor of all police officers who dedicate their lives to protect and serve.

“We were thinking about Brian (Shaw),” she said, referring to the New Kensington police officer fatally shot in November.

“But at the same time, it’s all of our law enforcement that puts their lives on the line. They’re all out there.”

The fireworks are set for 9:30 p.m. June 30 with a rain date of July 1. They’re being done by Ace Pryo LLC.

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“We put together a whole vignette of different blue effects — it’s going to be very tantalizing to the eyes,” Al Giordano, vice president of Eastern operations for Ace Pryo, said of the opening sequence. “It’s a large number of shots. It’s probably going to last at least three minutes, maybe up to five minutes. It all depends on how we design it.”

The fireworks will follow the annual block party associated with the display, which will be held at noon June 30, rain or shine, on Fourth Avenue, Plunkett said.

The party will feature vendors, a DJ and activities for children.

“It’s a nice time where all of the fighting is kind of set aside and everybody comes together and enjoys themselves,” she said.

Plunkett is the daughter of former New Kensington Recreation Commission member Kathie Males, who started coordinating the annual fireworks display in 1998. It has been an ongoing tradition for years.

“She always loved fireworks, and we used to watch them on my grandfather’s boat from Springdale, and she wanted them in New Kensington,” Plunkett said. “Once she got on the recreation commission, she wanted to try and do a July 4 with the fireworks.”

Males coordinated the fireworks display until 2012. In 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer, so there was no display.

Plunkett said she didn’t want that to happen again this year.

“The mayor had designated them as the Kathie Males Memorial Fireworks, and it’s something that my mom absolutely loved to do, and I can’t let it potentially not happen another year,” Plunkett said. “I started jumping on as far as fundraising because nothing had started yet.”

Mayor Tom Guzzo dedicated the annual display to Males. He said it’s something the community looks forward to every year.

″(Kathie) was so instrumental and passionate in making sure we had our annual fireworks display that I really believed we should honor her,” he said. “She organized, raised funds and promoted the annual event, so it was our honor to name the firework festivities in her name.”

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Males died July 11, 2014, and her obituary mentions her involvement in the fireworks display.

“She worked with the city of New Kensington for 14 years on the Recreation Commission as the fireworks chair,” the obit says. “The sky sparkled due to Kathie’s diligence and organization for the city’s Fourth of July Celebration.”

This year’s display will cost $11,000. Plunkett said she hopes to raise $15,000 for next year’s display because it will be the show’s 20th anniversary.

“We’re going to start fundraising this year at the block party for next year to try to make it a bigger one,” she said.

Businesses and residents are encouraged to donate to the cause, which is run purely through fundraising.

“This is not a city funded item; it never has been,” Plunkett said. “The city sets aside a certain dollar amount, $2,500, that they give for the display each year. Everything else is through fundraising.”

New this year will be a basket raffle. Plunkett is asking businesses to donate individual items as well as full baskets.

“Whatever floats anybody’s boat,” she said.

Donations for the fireworks displays are accepted year-round.

Basket donations will be accepted until April 30. Raffle tickets for the baskets will be sold at city hall and around the city, Plunkett said, and they will be raffled off around 5 p.m. at the block party.

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com, or on Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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