For three summers, gradeschooler Audrey Jung has run a lemonade stand in front of her house in Pewaukee, Wisc., to raise money for her town’s Fourth of July fireworks display.
She started worrying when she read a news story a few years ago about how the town might have to cancel the fireworks because there weren’t enough donations to pay for them, according to Lake Country Now.
The pint-sized philanthropist raised more than $200 each of the last two summers; she made $285 this month on a rainy Saturday.
This week the chairwoman of the town’s Volunteer Fireworks Fund announced that it had met its $15,000 goal — Audrey got a special shout-out — and the fireworks display will begin at dusk on Monday at the town’s lakefront.
But other cities and towns across America aren’t as lucky. Fourth of July fireworks displays have been canceled — or come close to being called off — because towns can’t afford them anymore.
Corporate sponsorships have dried up. The cost of pyrotechnics and insurance have gone up. Cities and towns of all sizes have turned to crowdfunding to keep their fireworks shows going — Reno, Nev.; Norwalk, Ct.; Towson, Md.; Trenton, N.J.; and Kewanee, Ill. have all done it, according to Time.
At the fireworks show in Towson, bucket brigades will be set up to collect money from the public. People mistakenly think the county pays for the display, which actually relies on private donations and corporate sponsors.
“A lot of people just assume that it’ll happen, and they don’t really need to do anything,” one of the organizers, Mike Ertel, told the Baltimore Sun.
The display costs about $11,000. Earlier this month two community groups that joined forces to keep the event alive had raised only half that amount.
Organizers in Oologah, Okla., also asked residents to help cover the skyrocketing costs of the annual show there.
“We are now facing the increased cost for fireworks and more costly ATF regulations for transporting explosives,” Mike Fawcett, the owner of the marina that puts on the annual show, wrote in the Oologah Lake Leader newspaper last month.
“Providing the same quality of show as we have in years past will cost almost double what it has before. If we do not receive enough in donations, we will have to really cut back our show or not have one altogether because the show’s cost now is more than $10,000.”
The show will go on in Oologah. But the public doesn’t always pony up. Organizers of the fireworks display in Minot, N.D., set up a GoFundMe page to raise the minimum $10,000 it needed for this year’s show at a local speedway. As of Thursday, only $800 had been raised.
“There’s so many people that come to the shows, but nobody wants to pay for it,” Derrick Miller of Mum Pyrotechnics told the Minot Daily News.
The same thing happened in Marion, Mass., where a campaign to raise $50,000 to $55,000 needed for the privately funded Independence Day fireworks display fell short. Organizers decided to hang on to what they did raise and put it toward a show they hope to reinstate next year.
This will be the second Fourth of July in three years that Marion will go without fireworks because there’s not enough money.
Lack of money will also keep the skies over Pottstown, Pa., dark on the Fourth of July.
A months-long fundraising campaign to pay for the town’s Independence Day fireworks, parade and other festivities raised “practically nothing,” according to Marcia Levengood, co-chairwoman of the effort.
The celebration costs about $50,000, $20,000 of which pays for the 20-minute fireworks show, Levengood told the Berks-Mont News.
“Fireworks are expensive,” she said. “It works out to about $1,000 a minute.”
City officials in Pottstown were divided about whether they wanted to pick up the tab or shoulder the time-consuming responsibility of organizing the show, which its never done.
“Although we regret the fact that Independence Day Ltd. has been unable to raise the needed funds for this year’s events, we cannot and will not underwrite these or other events at the expense of our taxpayers,” said council President Dan Weand.
The town of New Bedford, Mass., was more fortunate, finding a last-minute savior for its annual fireworks display.
While several nearby towns have canceled shows this Fourth because of what one organizer called “an extreme lack of funding and volunteers,” New Bedford this week received a $10,000 donation from a local medical practice for its show.
“We in New Bedford want to celebrate the Fourth of July the right way, and there are a lot of communities who can’t have fireworks displays,” mayor Jon Mitchell said at a press conference.
“It’s a time when cities have limited resources and this expense at times can be hard to justify, but we’ve been lucky to have corporate sponsors step up as they have done many times in the past.”