By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — Besides providing a fun night out for families and people of all ages last night, the Fourth of July Festival at the Old Center Common aided some charitable causes.
A dunk tank, organized by the Fire Department, raised money for the fight against muscular dystrophy. For $5, one could have five shots at hitting the big button that would toss firefighter Sean Bushnell into the tank. Bushnell, who has volunteered for this task for the last five years, said he hoped some of his fellow firefighters would provide him some relief when the festival continues today on the Old Center Common.
Over at the Beer and Wine Tent, staffed by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2104, the proceeds were earmarked for veterans’ groups and other humanitarian causes, according to Post Commander Ian Wilson. An Army veteran who has served two tours in Iraq, Wilson and his brother Michael, the post’s senior vice commander and a Marine Corps veteran, stood vigilantly at the entrance to the fenced-in area where adults could purchase and drink beer and wine.
No one under 21 is allowed inside the fence, Commander Wilson said. Furthermore, all beverages must be purchased within the restricted area, he said.
Over at the dunk tank, Bushnell and fellow firefighter Richard Bradley were, shall we say, very liberal in helping people sink the guy on the stool. Margaret Judge of North Andover, whose grandson Jeffrey Judge serves on the Fire Department, was jubilant when one of her pitches put Bushnell into the water for the umpteenth time.
“I felt wonderful,” said Judge, whose son Bernie is retired from the North Andover Fire Department.
“Everybody wins,” said a very wet Bushnell.
Young and old folks enjoyed riding the miniature train, operated by All About Fun Inc., that chugged around the Common throughout the festival. Disc jockey Russ McQueen implored his audience to get up and dance, but the people seated in front of his stage seemed content to just sit back and enjoy the music.
At around 7:30 p.m., the sound of bagpipes could be heard, as the kilted members of the Campbell Highlanders tuned up in the parking lot of the Joseph N. Hermann Youth Center. Then, after the sun dropped below the horizon, Atlas Pyrotechnics of Jaffrey, N.H., stationed at North Andover Middle School, lit up the sky with fireworks — undoubtedly the highlight of the evening for many of the hundreds who visited the Common last night.
The festival will continue today, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. There will be plenty of amusements for children and lots of food. Music of the “easy listening” variety, according to Festival Committee member James Fazio, will be played.
Before the festival gets underway, the 4th of July Road Race will take place, with registration starting at 7 a.m. on the Common. A Kids Run, six-tenths of a mile around the Common, will start at 8 a.m. The 5-kilometer walk/run will begin at 8:30 a.m., while the 10-kilometer run will commence at 8:35 a.m.