Destination America Wants To Make It 'Red, White And You’

With old man winter refusing to let go, you can forgiveMarc Etkind for looking ahead to summer. Specifically, the Destination America general manager is party planning for Independence Day.

For the second consecutive year, Destination America is working with national weekly magazine USA Weekend to help municipalities that otherwise wouldn’t have the funds to stage Fourth of July festivities to provide food, entertainment and, naturally, pyrotechnics, in their communities.

After setting up two towns last year with celebrations to remember, the second annual “Red, White and You” contest has been expanded to award five second-prize winning towns, with fireworks paid for by Destination America. A third “Viewer’s Choice” prize invites fans to vote for one town to receive $4,000 for its local parks and recreation department.

“With budgetary cutbacks, many towns have to make difficult choices,” Etkind said. “Entertainment and events like the Fourth of July celebrations are often casualties. We’re just happy that Destination America can help out with the festivities.”

Etkind said that when the program launched last March, he expected to get a couple of hundred nominations. Instead, the network received more than 3,500, a total he figures will be easily surpassed this time around.

Last year, Union Beach, N.J., which was ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, and Fayetteville, N.C., where the government didn’t have the funds for a fireworks bash at Fort Bragg, were the recipients of the fun. Verizon FiOS and Time Warner Cable offered promotional support and had a presence at the respective parties.

Destination America lined up spectacular parties for both towns, headlined by Grammy-winning band The Mavericks. Union Beach was treated to eats from stars of Destination America’s hit series BBQ Pitmasters, Myron Mixon and Tuffy Stone, while in Fayetteville there was a more patriotic nod to the armed forces: the 82nd Airborne Division Chorus performed after a traditional Posting of the Colors and remarks from Maj. Gen. Jeffrey N. Colt, deputy commanding general, XVIII Airborne Corps and Fort Bragg.

This year’s hopefuls can make their Red, White and You case at through April 13. People nationwide have the opportunity to say why, in 150 words or less, their hometown deserves an over-the-top Fourth of July celebration. A panel of judges will narrow down the finalists that will go on to the next round and then determine the two grand-prize winners the week of April 28, with USA Weekend showcasing the winners on June 29.

Viewers’ Choice voting takes place May 1-16, with the winner of the $4,000 stipend selected the week of May 19. Promos are also in rotation trumpeting the contest. Destination America plans to enlist affiliate support again, once the winners have determined.

Check out a promo here.

When Destination America got to Union Beach last year, Etkind said, there were “all these vacant lots that weren’t empty the year before,” and the network had to build the infrastructure and stage for the town that had not yet extricated itself from the superstorm’s fury. “People came over and thanked us,” he said. “It was so nice to hear.”

In North Carolina, a military wife whose husband was on 36-hour call — at any time, he could be shipped out to any destination around the globe without a sense for the mission’s end — told Etkind, “It was just nice to be able to relax with our daughter and enjoy the Fourth of July together.”

While this year’s program is just getting started, Etkin already has his eye on 2015: “We’re in the very early planning stages. I’m not sure if we’ll film entire shows, but it’s our intention to help America celebrate the Fourth of July, town by town.”