Fireworks organizers in need of money

For the first time in more than 30 years a firework show lit up the sky last Independence Day, and in year two, organizers are searching for ways to pay for the show.

Last year, the Bainbridge Island Yacht Club, the primary organizer of the show, ate $6,000 of the $16,000 cost for the 20-minute event over Eagle Harbor when it couldn’t come up with the full budget.

The organization and its partner San Carlos Restaurant and Catering are preparing for this year’s fireworks, but are still $10,000 short of the goal.

“We need another $10,000 from the community and businesses to make this show go forward,” said Tod Hornick, program manager for the show.

The show is dedicated to Arnold Jackson, who ran the Grand Old Fourth parade for more than 40 years. Hornick referred to him as Mr. Fourth of July.

The fireworks show is apart from the other aspects of the fourth, so Hornick has gone out and done a lot of the fund raising himself. Currently several businesses have signed on to help, and Hornick has received individual donations, as well.

The deadline for the funding is June 25, leaving Hornick exactly two weeks to raise the remaining money.

The rebirth of the fireworks show came about as a result of the debate over banning fireworks two years ago.

“What we want to do is put the show in the hands of professionals and minimize impact to neighborhoods around the island,” Hornick said.

The show went on last year without any contributions from the city and will do so again this year.

Hornick said the lesson he has learned so far is to begin raising funds as early as possible. This year he waited several months to start, and when he approached the city and local businesses, he learned they had all filled out their budgets. For next year, Hornick said he plans to begin raising funds on July 5.

The firework show wasn’t the only event for the fourth that has experienced funding problems this year. The annual Street Dance, the July 3 evening event that is sponsored by the Bainbridge Island Downtown Association, was in danger until recently.

“We were faced in early spring with no financial support for the event,” said BIDA Executive Director Andrea Mackin.

As a result of the economic downturn, disposable income for businesses to sponsor the event was gone, she said. Past sponsors shifted their funds to other events on the island, while others pulled out altogether.

She said the longevity (24 years) of the dance helped fundraising efforts. She went to a number of downtown businesses that told her the dance had to continue. They cobbled enough money together from a variety of sources – including Columbia Bank – to support a stripped-down version of the event.

“They all said if you’re going do it, and you say you have a limited budget, we support it going back to its roots,” she said. “We just decided to take it back to its roots.”

Gone are some of the more carnival-like aspects. The dance has returned to focusing on music, food and interaction between people.

While the fireworks are new, Mackin said it is important to have them as a core part of the weekend so they can become just as much a tradition as the dance or the parade and car show on the morning of the fourth.

“The advantage we had is that the street dance has been such a part of the community, and I would like to see the same thing happen with the fireworks,” she said. “This is a gift to everybody.”

But not everyone was happy with the show last year. A number of residents near the barge from which the fireworks were shot complained of the negative effect the show had on their animals, horses in particular.

Hornick said this year’s show will be moved approximately 100 yards further up the harbor to minimize the impact to neighborhoods. He mentioned that the show may feature smaller projectiles.

Hornick understood how the fireworks could be disturbing to animals.

“They hear a noise they don’t recognize and they go into ‘battle mode’. It makes them almost uncontrollable.”

Hornick said the scope of the show is still up for input. He hopes the majority of the community will come forward and let him know what they want.

“We’re celebrating our nation’s birthday,” he said. “It should be for the people that support it, and it should go in the direction that people on Bainbridge want it to go. Bigger and louder isn’t necessarily better.”

*****

You can help

The Arnold Jackson fireworks show is still short of its goal in funding. There are several different ways one can donate: Potential donors can drop off their contributions at Columbia Bank, send a check to Bainbridge Island Yacht Club, Arnold Jackson Memorial Fireworks Fund, 5834 Ward Ave. NE, Bainbridge Island, 98110, or donate online at http://www.the-biyc.us/blog/.

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