The Bronx was officially the first in the nation last week to wish America a “happy birthday” with a time honored borough tradition.
The annual ‘New York Salutes America’ boardwalk festival and fireworks extravaganza was held Thursday, June 25 at Orchard Beach where many Bronxites took full advantage of the free family-friendly celebration that included delicious food, balloon artists, face painting, and magicians among a host of other activities.
Hosted by Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. and Senator Jeff Klein, the event began with a procession of bagpipers marching to the stage at Orchard Beach Pavilion, which was topped off by the Bronx Puerto Rican Day Parade 2015 King, Jose Figueroa, Jr.’s, emotionally stirring rendition of the National Anthem.
During an awards ceremony Diaz recognized event sponsors Assemblyman Michael Benedetto’s, Schuyler Hill Funeral Home, Snapple, Sanitation Salvage Corp., Sabrett, Pepsi Corp., Pascap Corp., Manhattan Beer, DJ Ambulette, Con Edison, and Capital Shield for all of their support.
“This event is always a great way to celebrate our patriotism and America’s independence and I am proud to have co-sponsored this event with Senator Jeff Klein for another year,” Borough President Diaz Jr. expressed. “Thousands of people here tonight enjoyed a world-class fireworks show, great music, dancing and even our first ever eating contest and I look forward to being a part of this event once again next year.
This year had the first-ever ‘Bronx Eating Contest’ where male and female contestants chowed down on empanadas provided by Havana Cafe in Throggs Neck.
Chris Mesa was declared the winner of the men’s empanada eating contest and Brittany Mero was deemed the victor of the women’s division.
Both won a Bronx Prize Pack that included family passes to the Bronx Zoo and the New York Botanical Garden, a $75 Fresh Direct gift card, among others.
Alive N Kickin’ served as the evening’s main musical act, performing a crowd pleasing set including their number one hit single ‘Tighter, Tighter’ as well as covers of Bruno Mars’ ‘Uptown Funk’ and Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’.
Though Senator Klein was in Albany last Thursday, his office aired a video during the event thanking everyone for their support and attendance.
“Tonight is a special night at Orchard Beach as we get together each year to mark the greatest of our nation and enjoy food, music and of course a spectacular fireworks display,” Senator Klein said. “I am so proud to represent you and fight for you and I’m proud to sponsor tonight’s event. You’re all going to have a blast tonight and I wish I can be there with you. I’ll see you all when I’m back from Albany.”
Thursday evening concluded with its yearly awe-inspiring professional fireworks display that lit up the night sky to many Bronx residents’ delight.
“I come here every year to see the fireworks because it’s the only show where you’re close enough to fully appreciate them. There’s a lot of great music and food making this the perfect family outing and my family is really enjoying themselves tonight,” Richard Lopez, a Westchester Square resident said.
“I had today off and decided to spend it with my granddaughter at Orchard beach and we ended up hearing about this event from my friend, Hector who’s a regular at this event,” Jenny Rivera, a Co-op City resident said.
“I’ve been coming here for 15 years now and I love watching the fireworks every year, as well as meeting new people. As a veteran, this is an absolutely beautiful experience,” Hector Nieves, Iraq War veteran and Co-op City resident shared.
“I really like this event and hanging out with my grandma and my new friend, Hector. I’m having a lot of fun here tonight,” Xiomara Soto, eight-year-old Pelham Bay resident expressed.