Spring may just be underway, but the fuse for the oft-heated issue of the City of Great Bend’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display has already been lit. At issue are questions of timing and a dwindling trickle of donations.
“It can be a really ugly topic,” Community Coordinator Christina Hayes told the City Council Monday night. “Everyone loves the Independence Day fireworks.”
But, with a goal of $15,000, “we are still $5,850 short,” she said. That takes into account the $5,000 the city kicks in each year for the display.
The shortfall was $7,500 Monday night, but a few checks came in since the council meeting.
“Last year was an extremely successful decision to move the display to the third instead of the fourth,” she said. “It was probably the best turnout we’ve had in a really long time.”
And, that’s one answer, she said. Having it before the fourth won’t interfere with people who have their own displays on the Independence Day.
“This is now on the city’s shoulders and we have to raise funds for this,” she said. Factoring in staff time to track down the money, “it’s really hard to do this.”
Several years ago, this was a $30,000 show. Now, it is half of that.
“This is still a great show,” she said. “Don’t be afraid by the number.”
Although no decisions were made Monday, Hayes will report back to the council at the April 16 meeting.
“We just need to get this word out there,” Councilman Dana Dawson said. Having been on the council before, he has heard complaints on this in the past.
As for the council discussion, Councilman Andrew Erb said every other year may be an option. If the city continues to give $5,000 annually, that would put $10,000 in the kitty, requiring only $5,000 to be raised.
He also tossed out the idea of a countywide show that could pull donors from outside Great Bend.
Councilman Cory Urban suggested taking freewill donations at the event.
“The city has never fully funded the show,” Dawson said.
While these are all ideas for next year, they don’t help for this year.
Time is running out, Hayes said. She was asked by the council about her “drop-dead” deadline for funding.
“That’s a really hard question,” she said. She already has a contract in motion with a shooter.
The city could back out and the shooter could save the fireworks until next year. But, that sends a bad message about the stability of the event.
“I’d be uncomfortable if we were into June and the money is not raised,” Hayes said. In reality, though, she said her deadline is May 1.
Hayes said they do set donor levels that come with various levels of recognition, but any size donation is welcome. “Anybody can give us a check.”
To gauge public sentiment, Hayes put a brief survey on the city’s Facebook page. She asked:
• Is anybody willing to donate?
• What do you suggest if we don’t raise all the funds for our Fourth of July fireworks?
• What are your thoughts on holding this event every other year?
• We can’t expect the same businesses to put up the money every year. What do you suggest to get other sponsors involved?
She also had a link to a site where contributions could be made.
She received several comments. Many liked the show being on the third and some suggested the city host a fundraiser.
But, “hosting events costs money,” she said. “It seems silly to spend a lot of money to raise money.”
Still, “I don’t know what the right answer is,” Hayes said. “I don’t know where you want to go with this.”
Hayes plans to approach civic clubs this year and see if local businesses may host online vendor fairs from which a portion of the proceeds would go to the display.
Monday, she asked for the council’s guidance. “So I need you all to start asking the public.”