Local Benefactor, Restaurateur Launch Fundraiser to Save July 4 Symphony Concert

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Fireworks behind the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg (Photo courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)
Fireworks behind the Governor’s Palace in Colonial Williamsburg. (Photo courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation)

A pair of local residents are working to ensure the Historic Triangle’s Independence Day celebration comes with a classical soundtrack.

Virginia Symphony Orchestra sponsor Bert Aaron and local businessman Adam Steely have launched an effort to raise funds for the symphony’s annual Independence Day concert in Colonial Williamsburg.

The concert has traditionally been funded by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, but it does not plan to do so in the future, as its effect as a tourism driver could not be quantified compared to the holiday fireworks.

Steely and Aaron have started a Kickstarter campaign in hopes of raising $31,000 to fund about half of the expenses to stage the concert. As of Friday afternoon, the campaign had raised $540.

Aaron and Steely are somewhat of an odd coupling in their efforts to save the concert. Aaron is a longtime benefactor for the Virginia Symphony, while Steely said he is “completely ignorant” of classical music.

“For me classical music is the Rolling Stones and The Byrds,” Steely said.

Steely said Aaron recognized his previous efforts to foster the arts community in Williamsburg and came to him to help save the concert.

Steely agreed, and said the concert – one of four on the East Coast to feature fireworks and a live classical performance – was a great potential arts draw for the area.

Want to Help Out?

To find out more about the concert or to donate to the campaign, visit the fundraiser page online.

“It seems like a no-brainer,” Steely said. “If Williamsburg is one of only four on the East Coast to have the fireworks and the orchestra, that’s something we need to keep going.”

Steely said the high-profile event would announce the Williamsburg area as an arts-friendly community and could be a significant tourist draw.

The biggest hurdle facing the concert’s return remains its financing. Steely said Colonial Williamsburg would allow the concert to be staged in front of the Governor’s Palace free of charge, but the concert’s supporters still need to come up with more than $60,000 to fund the show.

The Kickstarter campaign hopes to raise about half of the necessary expenses, and Steely said the rest could come from private donors and sponsors.

Part of that funding could come from the City of Williamsburg’s coffers. In April, the Virginia Symphony asked the City Council for $65,000 to fund the concert. While fully funding the concert is unlikely, City Council members were open to the idea of providing some financial support for the concert from the city’s $184,000 tourism fund.

Deputy City Manager Jodi Miller said Friday the city had not finalized a dollar amount to support the concert, but it remained on the table given the City Council’s previous interest.

The city will finalize its budget May 14. Until then, Aaron and Steely will continue to solicit donations and sponsorships from the community.

“This is a good way to find out what level of support is in the community for the concert,” Steely said.

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