Fundraising a dud, so no fireworks in Port Townsend on July 4 — but maybe in 2015

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Despite an eleventh-hour effort to secure sponsorships and pull together a public Fourth of July display, the skies over Fort Worden State Park will stay dark for a second consecutive year.

“The Fourth of July is not only a day to celebrate independence but a time to celebrate family,” said Teresa Verraes, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce executive director.

“The fireworks are really important to a lot of people, and we tried to make it work, but in the end, we didn’t have the time or the funding to do a good job.”

This was the first year that the chamber attempted to get involved in creating a public fireworks display.

In past years, the show was sponsored by the Port Townsend Rotary Club and, when that group no longer had the funding, the city.

After two years of supporting the fireworks, the city was unable to do so last year, and there was no display.

The chamber stepped in earlier this year after receiving several queries, but by that time, both sponsorships and fireworks suppliers had already sold their available stock.

“Large sponsors determine their budgets ahead of time, so we were unable to get any of them to participate on such a short notice,” said chamber board member Dominick Svornich.

“The minimum amount for a display is $10,000. We could have raised that amount, but by then, we couldn’t have purchased the fireworks because the companies plan ahead for the year.”

As a result, the chamber will be ahead of the planning curve for 2015.

“We have a meeting scheduled for the end of July where we will gather all the stakeholders and start gathering the sponsorships for next year,” Svornich said.

“By starting early, we can plan something really special, putting on an all-day event with food, crafts and music.”

Park Manager Brian Hageman would welcome a community effort to reinstate the fireworks show.

“It would be great to bring fireworks back to the park,” he said.

“We have a large beach with beautiful views, and I look forward to having them here in the future.”

Early planning also could be an opportunity to build partnerships that could carry the event into subsequent years.

“We want to make next year special, taking advantage of what the fort has to offer,” Verraes said.

“But we are not committing to operating this long term.

“If this is to continue, we need to get the community involved.”

Verraes said one fundraising option under consideration is to allow utility customers to support the fireworks through a line item on their regular bill.

“We want to put on a really robust event,” Svornich said.

“Since we didn’t have fireworks last year, we wanted to do something really special, but the way it was going, it would have been difficult to put on something that was bare-bones.”

Since 2001, pyrotechnist John Eissinger had managed the presentation from a barge in Port Townsend Bay.

That changed in 2011, when the show was moved to an area near Fort Worden State Park’s lighthouse to save on costs.

The city contributed in 2011 and 2012, but officials announced that it couldn’t afford it in 2013, and no show was held.

Consumer fireworks are illegal within the city limit. They are legal outside the city limit in East Jefferson County.

Public fireworks shows are planned on the Fourth of July in Port Angeles and Neah Bay and July 5 in Forks.

Despite the lack of a fireworks show, Fort Worden will be pretty lively on the Fourth of July since it is hosting Centrum’s Festival of Fiddle Tunes and the campgrounds are expected to be full.

The festival, which draws hundreds of musicians who play traditional American music, will offer a full week of workshops from next Sunday, June 29, through July 6.

Two public performances are scheduled on the Fourth of July: at 1:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. in McCurdy Pavilion at Fort Worden. A third performance is set for 1:30 p.m. July 5.

Tickets — which can be purchased at www.centrum.org, by phoning 800-746-1982 or at the Centrum office in Fort Worden State Park — range from $23 to $28 for each concert.

The Fourth of July evening performance is named “Fiddles and Fireworks,” but it will go on even though the rockets won’t be bursting in the air.

“Centrum’s July 4 concert will continue as scheduled, at 7 p.m. at the McCurdy Pavilion at Fort Worden State Park,” said Centrum spokeswoman Megan Claflin.

“We welcome the community to celebrate Independence Day with an evening of outstanding performers and lively fiddle music.”

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 21. 2014 5:47PM
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