Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Community Call-to-Action: Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks

Our family moved to Vancouver in June of 1980, into the Cherry Wood Park Apartments in the Minnehaha neighborhood. I was nine years old at the time, so most of the details are pretty blurry. I do remember a few things -- riding bikes with my brother, kicking up ash from the recent Mount St. Helens eruption, and how important that new contraption, the microwave, was to my mom.

There's one event, though, that stands out quite vividly: the first Fourth of July celebration in our new community. In the days leading up to the Fourth, we bought and lit off as many firecrackers as our weekly ‘allowance’ would allow. Usually, on the Fourth our father would take us to the fireworks stand and with unbridled excitement (Dad too), we’d buy a smattering of fancy fireworks to set off shortly after sunset. This Fourth of July, though, turned out to be different -- and much more exciting.

Late-afternoon on the Fourth, we jumped into the 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix and went for a drive. Dad let on that we weren’t going to buy fireworks, but instead were going to watch somebody else’s. After a short drive, we parked, dropped our blankets and food in an open spot on the grass and watched the goings-on. I'd never seen such a huge celebration!

As the sun set and darkness filled in, Dad pointed toward the sky and told us to watch for the fireworks. I was a bit confused. There were people all around and I couldn’t figure out why and where in the grass the fireworks would be set off. Then suddenly the sky lit up like it was on fire, followed by deep, explosive booms. It took a moment for me to realize that these were the fireworks Dad said to look for. What in the world! I was absolutely awestruck by the size, the height, the noise, and the colors. I’m certain my mouth was open the entire time.

That Fourth of July in 1980 was an incredible experience for me, and I suspect for thousands of other children and families. Over the subsequent 29 years to today, I have missed only a handful of celebrations. And every single time, I had a hollow feeling about missing them. Something wasn’t quite right – the summer just wasn’t the same.

With the settlement of Fort Vancouver by the Hudson’s Bay Company, our community is considered the ‘birthplace’ of the Pacific Northwest. But it's the Fort Vancouver Fourth of July Celebration and Fireworks that put Vancouver, Washington, on the radar screen of the entire United States of America. It's this celebration which has created cherished memories for our families, our children, our neighbors and our friends. More than any other single activity in our community, it is this event that is the most beloved.

Yet, now it is gone.

Indeed, we are now facing nearly unprecedented hardship and difficult times. But that simply means that now, more than ever, our community needs a community Fourth of July Celebration. We might need to make it smaller--we might need to make more personal contributions. But we need to feel good about what has been and what can be. The celebration of our country’s independence, in the wonderful tradition that we have become accustomed to, can be a reminder that we will persevere.

This event is Vancouver and we are Vancouver.

Let’s stand together, families, businesses and non-profits to restore our celebration and create those fond memories for our children.


Ed Bisquera said...

Has there been a resolution yet? Can anyone put it on, or does it remain an entity that intends to be sold?
I have many questions as to why we need to be spending ANY money just to put on an event that WASTES so much, produces so much litter and IMHO, may not be worth saving. Any info to educate me as to WHY we should EVEN SAVE this event (does it really HAVE to cost $250,000++ to put on??? and do we need that BIG-ASS $20,000 stage for local acts??) and I'd love to donate my hard-earned money. Unless something can be done to completely rehash and redesign the Fourth of July event on BUDGET, I say "LET IT DIE ON THE VINE!!" :-) Convince me, PLEASE, that I'm wrong and this event should live on...

Anonymous said...

Ed, I can agree with you that the years of the four to five hundred thousand dollar a year shows financed by fireworks stands, in-kind donations and corporate sponsorships is over.

Now if they can come up with a smaller show that may be near a hundred to one hundred fifty thousand may be some thing more palatable to put together.

Also the hotels on Hayden Island, the Quay,Tomahawk Island and Downtown Vancouver (cannot forget the Vancouver Hiltoon?) should have to contribute some thing.

I do not care if its a benefit district (like we have here in Washington state) where they charge every room on the night in question an extra $50 (or higher premium) just for the luxury of getting to watch the show?

Right now, this years show is going to be a very small one OR its going to be some thing really related to our heritage, which in my opinion is a wonderful idea.

Cheaper to set up, put together and require less law enforcement - private security presence than the major show that has been done for so long.

Tim, if you REALLY want this show to be put back on the front like it used to be, your going to have to find, cobble together the resources each and every year like Jim Larson and the fireworks committee's used to have to do.

Like it was asked above, tell me with some detail how your going to accomplish this task? If you can pull this off you will have a better chance of winning against Royce in the general election.

Anonymous said...

Dom Rinck has made it clear that his agenda is to transition this event back to a smaller display, and as the major source of funding ($300,000 annually), he is deciding how this transition will occur. He believes that the public will balk at a scaled back show for 2009, but, if he withholds all funding this year, there will be no show at all. The effect would be a public that is grateful for any show at all when (if) he decides to fund a smaller show in 2010. This is the danger of having a single contributor control the major purse strings for an event like this.

Please, Tim -- try to cobble together a coalition so this tradition doesn't vanish. In times like these, we need this for our morale.