July 1, 2009
Sturtevant rallies to save its fireworks show
Update: Thousands of people attended Sturtevant's fireworks on Friday night, lining up as far away as Durand Avenue to watch the show. Here are pictures from the dramatic display.
By Heather Asiyanbi
Annual fireworks displays to mark the 4th of July are as American as backyard barbeque. Thanks to a group of enterprising citizens and two village board members, Sturtevant will maintain tradition and light up the sky once again.
Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, everyone is invited to Firemen's Park behind village hall for the festivities. Live music from Just East of You opens the party followed by two, 90-minute sets from Positive Feedback, one each before and after the fireworks. The main event is set to begin at dusk, probably around 9:15, and last from 30 to 40 minutes.
Like other cities and villages across the state, Sturtevant has had to tighten its belt, cutting anything not deemed necessary to the health and safety of village residents. The fireworks fell victim to the trimming, but board members Daryl Lynaugh and Linda Busha, with the support of Village President Steve Jansen and the other trustees, felt the fireworks were too important to not try and save them.
"We need to have an event that brings the community together," Lynaugh said. "Things are depressing enough right now with the economy. We need this because it means something for the quality of life in Sturtevant."
The total cost of the annual fireworks runs approximately $17,000. The committee, made up of Lynaugh, Busha and seven residents, has managed to raise just over $10,000 so far. They are counting on beer and food sales, as well as a $5 per car parking charge, to bring in the balance.
"It's not cheap to put this on every year," committee member Gary Bublitz pointed out. "Residents enjoy it because it's free, but it's not free for the village." People also expect it, he went on to say, and for the most part, were more than willing to give when they were told the fireworks wouldn't happen if people didn't pull together to make it happen.
"We've built our bank based on lots of smaller donations instead of bigger blocks of money from just a few people," Bublitz confirmed.
According to Jansen, the village has been looking for ways to take the fireworks off the budget for a number of years while the board struggles every year to keep taxes at a minimum and service levels high.
"I'm really proud of this citizen group," Jansen said. "They've really worked hard to pull people together to make sure we still have a great community event to attend."
Busha agreed. "It's important to keep things like this in our community. It brings people together for a good time and helps forge connections so neighbors can get to know one another and help out when and if times get hard."
The 2010 budget is already shaping up to be even more lean, Jansen added, and residents should expect to come together in the same way next year if they want fireworks.
"The Sturtevant fireworks are a long-time tradition," Busha noted. "Even in hard times, it needs to happen. People can come out and have a good time for no or low cost."
Surprisingly, committee members say they didn't run across anyone who didn't care if the fireworks stay or go and the money raised backs up their claim.
"There are more people who don't want to see the village fireworks disappear than who don't care either way," Busha said. "We're hoping this new way of funding the 4th of July celebration can become a tradition with the same kind of the support the fireworks have always enjoyed."
Friday will also be declared Hank Johnson Day. Johnson was a lifelong village resident with a deep commitment to his community. Father of current board member John Johnson, Hank attended nearly every village board and committee meeting, served as a volunteer firefighter and helped organize youth activities over the years. Jansen will present a plaque to the family and a tree has been planted at Firemen's Park in Hank's memory.
If you go: Friday, 5 p.m. at Firemen's Park, 2801 89th Street, Sturtevant; (262) 886-7200. $5 per car parking; admission is free.
Heather Asiyanbi is a veteran journalist who covers Sturtevant, Mount Pleasant and Caledonia for RacinePost. Have a story idea? Contact Heather at: email@example.com