More than 10,000 people streamed into the large grassy field throughout the evening, carrying lawn chairs and snacks. They enjoyed live performances by Phil Costa and The Something Special Band and classic rock group Chicken Head Rocks.
Shortly after 9 p.m., the Grucci fireworks display filled the sky by the waterfront.
According to Paul DiBenedetto, president of the Bayside Historical Society, this is the third year they have “officially” hosted the event.
“Fireworks were done here unofficially years ago down in Little Bay,” he said. “There was always talk about us bringing back the fireworks.”
After getting in touch with Councilman Paul Vallone, they agreed his office would sponsor the event, while the Bayside Historical Society would run it with the help of the NYPD, FDNY and the Parks Department.
“It’s gone pretty flawlessly every year since,” DiBenedetto said. “Everybody comes in, has a great time, eats, drinks, listens to music, enjoys the sun.”
The Independence Day celebration takes place at Fort Totten, which the historical society also calls home. DiBenedetto said the event is “part of our mission.”
“Our mission is to preserve the past and history of Bayside, and to bring that to the present day so people can learn about it, enjoy it and feel a sense of home and pride,” he said. “You always hope history can instruct the present and the future.”
Fort Totten is landmarked, which means the historic buildings will be preserved. The whole peninsula used to be an Army base, DiBenedetto said. Today, the Army and Coast Guard still use it for reserves.
The Fire, Police and Parks departments all have operations at Fort Totten as well.
“This whole entire peninsula would’ve been condos or something else right now,” he said. “Instead, it belongs to the city of New York, it belongs to the public.
“To bring people here and to see how beautiful it is, yet there’s all this history that surrounds it, that really serves our mission,” DiBenedetto added. “We’re just happy to bring this to the community.”
Vallone said he looks forward to seeing the event grow each year.
“What a fantastic way to kick off summer 2017 in Northeast Queens,” Vallone told the crowd. “Once again, thousands upon thousands gathered at Fort Totten to celebrate our independence and community.”