If the tradition of July Fourth fireworks at Whetstone Park is going to continue, someone else will have to step up and make it happen.
Members of Clintonville July 4th Celebration Inc., which has been planning and raising money for the annual fireworks display for more than two decades, announced last week that the 2019 show was its “final finale.”
A letter signed by committee president G. Scott Smith says the “door is open” for another individual or group to take on the event, which not only includes fireworks but a full day of activities at the park.
“There is time before next year’s event to make the necessary reservations and obtain the necessary permits,” the letter reads.
The letter and a corresponding Facebook post by the committee went on to thank the many volunteers that have made the event possible.
“It really takes a village to ‘Light Up the Ville’ every year and we couldn’t do it without your support and participation,” the post reads.
Committee member Pat Kearns-Davis said she’s been involved in planning the festivities for almost 20 years. While the experience has been a great one for her and her family, she said, it’s time for new leadership.
“We’ve been happy to do it. We don’t want to see it end; we want to see this thing continue to flourish. But it’s time for someone else to run it,” Kearns-Davis said.
She said the current leaders have “hinted around for the last three to five years” that they were looking for someone to take over, but when it came time to meet a deadline or plan a fundraising event, they would step back in and make sure it was handled.
“It takes a good five to 10 people to run it, to coordinate everything,” she said. “We’re in Clintonville; we should be able to handle this.”
In all, Kearns-Davis said, it takes about $70,000 to make the event happen, including breakfast and the rest of the day’s activities through the fireworks.
The pyrotechnics – the only fireworks in the city of Columbus that happen on the Fourth, Kearns-Davis said – cost about $20,000 alone.
“And we’re totally self-funded,” she said.
Kearns-Davis said the work really starts around this time of year, which is why the committee announced its decision now.
“Permits, reservations, insurance, fundraising – it needs to get started soon. It doesn’t really just happen,” she said. “We’ll go over our contacts and our budget and whatever people need.”
“It’s been fun, but it’s time.”
Clintonville Area Commission member Judy Minister said the committee and the families that are part of it have been the “bedrock” of the July Fourth celebration, taking responsibility for more than 20 years.
“Sadly, it’s become too much for them to continue,” Minister said. “They are researching other groups that may take it over.”
She added the CAC would like to discuss the issue but because of an agenda packed with zoning items, it didn’t happen at the October meeting.
CAC member Libby Wetherholt said commission members are well-aware of the situation, though their hands might be tied.
“We will try to keep people posted, but ... our mission as written in city code would probably not allow us to do anything officially,” she said.