By Cary Shuman
When it comes to Fourth of July parties in Chelsea, Artie Ells in a class by himself.
For the past 40 Independence Days, ever since the nation’s bicentennial celebration in 1976, Artie Ells has welcomed hundreds of friends and neighbors to his home on Palmer Street on the holiday.
This year City Manager Tom Ambrosino personally delivered a proclamation to Ells in recognition of his patriotism and lifelong contributions to Chelsea. Ambrosino joins a long list of dignitaries including U.S. Presidents Reagan, Bush (41 and 43), Clinton, and Trump who have honored Ells for his civic and patriotic endeavors with official letters of acknowledgement.
The party is officially known as “Artie’s July 4tH Celebration.” On that day (rain has only forced one postponement until July 5), Artie turns his backyard into a “Party with Artie” extravaganza, with guests young and old enjoying a barbecue of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, and steak to go along with musical entertainment, swimming in the Ells pool, and games for the kids.
A large, 24-by-30-foot American flag is on display to complement “God Bless America” signs and red, white, and blue bunting.
Artie, his wife, Tish, and their son, Matt, who is assistant director of athletic operations at Northeastern University, presented blue “Party With Artie” t-shirts to the many guests. Artie, who wears a red, white, and blue costume, personally led the gathering in the singing of “God Bless of America.”
What was the inspiration for launching 40 years of a special observance of America’s birthday?
Ells said he had received an American flag that was flown on July 4, 1976 at the U.S. Capitol Building. That flag has been displayed at the party each year.
“I wanted to hold a celebration to provide a nice day for people and honor our country and salute American patriotism,” said Ells. “I don’t want people to forget the great country we live in and what America stands for. It never hurts to be patriotic and believe in the country that you live in.”
The list of guests has included Major League Baseball players such as Wade Boggs, Danny Darwin, and John Henry Johnson. Former Mass. Governor Edward King attended one of the celebrations. Former state senator Francis Doris was a big supporter.
“It’s just a great event where a bunch of people can get together and have a good time and love each and show their patriotism,” said Frank Mahoney, who has known Ells since his childhood.
Artie grew up on Hancock Street and graduated from Chelsea High in 1963. He later played for the talented and colorful New Bridge Café softball team in the local fast pitch league. Ells joined softball legends Eddie McCarthy, Homer Norton, Danny Cronin, Bobby Gallo, Mike Kearney, Rollie DeSimone and others on the New Bridge team that would pack the old Carter Park on game nights.
He holds a lifelong love for the city and has a respectful knowledge of its history, noting the since demolished Pratt House on Washington Avenue where President George Washington once stayed during a visit.
Whether the “Party With Artie” tradition continues next year is a question being debated in the Ells household. The day takes considerable planning and preparation, not to mention the extensive cleanup afterwards.
But Artie Ells will always have a place of fondness in his heart for his friends, his city, and his country.
“I’ve been blessed with so many great friends and family,” said Artie. “To me, Chelsea is my home and it’s always been my home. And without a doubt we live in the greatest country in the world.”