Chamber hopes fireworks fundraising ‘booms’ in weeks ahead

Alpena celebrates the Fourth of July each summer like no other community I know.

Residents understand how to celebrate in style and celebrate they do, from the patriotic parade through downtown in the morning to sand sculptures along the beach in the afternoon to an impressive fireworks display at night. No one does the Fourth better than Alpena!

Obviously that is a pretty bold statement, and therein lies a problem Alpena organizers are faced with. If Alpena’s Fourth of July is “bigger and better” than anyone else’s, how can that enthusiasm and energy be maintained year after year?

It’s a tough question that requires an even tougher answer. Just ask Jackie Krawczak, Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. While the chamber oversees some of the events that make the Fourth special – the parade for example, the fireworks display is not a chamber event, but rather a City of Alpena event.

Yes, the Chamber of Commerce raises money for the fireworks display each year, but in Krawczak’s words “we sort of by default got that responsibility.” When it looked like the display was in jeopardy of having enough funds a few years ago for a show, the chamber stepped in and assisted the city in fundraising. It was one of those jobs that once inherited, never has gone away.

It’s understandable given local government finances since the Recession. Another traditional Fourth of July event – the sandcastle contest, always was sponsored by the Alpena Downtown Development Association. Three years ago the DDA board had reservations about continuing it, and asked The Alpena News to take it over. Naturally, we agreed as we knew how important it was to the community to keep that tradition going, and the exposure for us is something very positive as well.

And while the average Joe and Jane probably most associate the fireworks display with the chamber rather than the city, fundraising is hard, and takes a lot of time. Krawczak said every year when it comes time to begin the work, chamber members have a lengthy discussion and debate about whether they should continue doing it. While every year they have opted to continue, years like this give them pause to question that decision.

To date fundraising really is lagging, off quite a bit from where they normally would be this time of year. Krawczak said a spectacular display like in years past will cost about $21,500 and right now, the city is only a third of the way to that number. Because of when the display needs ordered for this year, in essence city residents have only about four to six weeks to wrap up this year’s fundraising efforts. If $14,000 is going to materialize between now and that point, it is going to take a lot of contributions and participation by everyone.

Is it possible? Absolutely, Krawczak would say. Is it probable? This is where Krawczak would pause, and hedge. “We’re far behind where we should be at this point and in reality we really only have a little over a month left to raise the money.”

Bake sales and button sales only can raise so much. If the $14,000 is going to be met, it is going to take some significant contributions from individuals or businesses.

That’s where you come in this morning. If you want a fireworks show on the order of years past, it is time to roll up your sleeves and get busy in the fundraising effort.

Whatever is raised will be what is ordered, whether that is $7,000 or $70,000.

At this point it’s all up to you.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.