By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER — The Fourth of July is extremely serious business in North Andover.
Right off the bat, one needs to understand that this town has been around for a long time —130 years before the Declaration of Independence. Officially, North Andover was incorporated in 1855, but it was actually SETTLED in 1646.
So how did this town come to be known as North Andover while its neighbor obtained the distinction of being called Andover? That’s another story for another day.
At any rate, when North Andoverites celebrate the Fourth, they don’t just light a few firecrackers, drink a few beers and have a barbecue. For many years, they have enlivened the Merrimack Valley with the two-day Fourth of July Festival.
The highlight is the fireworks display, which will begin shortly after sunset the night of July 3. The pyrotechnics will be launched at North Andover Middle School and can be seen from miles around.
Good viewing spots include the historic Common in the old center, where the other Fourth of July Festival activities will take place, Kittredge School near Main Street and Route 125 and North Andover High School.
The show will be happening this year thanks to a $5,000 donation from the Lowell Five Cent Savings Bank, whose North Andover branch opened at the beginning of the year.
“We want to be a community partner,” said Susan deMari, senior vice president for marketing at the Lowell 5, who presented a check to the selectmen Monday night.
Linda Firth, assistant vice president and manager of the bank’s North Andover branch, said she has fond memories of watching the North Andover fireworks with her family during her youth.
Local developer Louis Minicucci, who leases the 498 Chickering Road site to the Lowell 5, was very instrumental in arranging the donation for the fireworks, according to Jeffrey Coco, co-chairman of the Festival Committee.
Another feature of the festival is the 4th of July Road Race. For years, this race, which offers 5- and 10-kilometer competitions, drew hundreds of runners to the Common every Independence Day.
Road reconstruction led to the cancellation of the race a few years ago. Last year, however, the Borderline Running began the race’s comeback by organizing what was called a training run on the Fourth.
Come this July 4, the race, with its challenging course that takes runners up many a hill — with heat and humidity usually thrown in — will be back at full throttle. Registration and number pickup will commence 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 5K run/walk will get underway at 8:30 a.m., followed by the 10K run at 8:35 a.m. The proceeds of the race will benefit the Friends of the North Andover Senior Center.
Christopher Marshall, race director, told the selectmen Monday night he and other organizers would like to register at least 800 runners. For more information or to register, visit the Borderline Running Club’s website: www.July4thrace.com.
The Fourth of July Festival will begin at 5 p.m. July 3 and run until 10 p.m. The following day, after the race has concluded and awards bestowed upon outstanding runners, the festival will resume at 10 a.m. A wide variety of crafters and food vendors will be on the Common both days and there’ll be plenty of music.
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2104 will staff the popular beer tent on the Common both days. Selectman Richard Vaillancourt said Monday night the VFW does an “excellent” job of maintaining order and making sure the beer does not get into the hands or throats of people under the age of 21.