The night sky over Firemen’s Park this July will be lit only by stars because the annual Sturtevant Fireworks festival has been canceled for 2015.
Committee members say it’s becoming more difficult to raise the money needed – an average of $25,000 – and they are burnt out after years of struggling to fully organize not just the main event but also the fundraising activities leading up to it.
“The village’s fireworks event has been privately funded through donations and coordinated by volunteers for years,” Trustee and committee member Carrie Harbach told Racine County Eye. “Over the last few years, donations have slowed and new volunteers have not come forward.”
Because the fireworks is not a non-profit organization separate from the village, Sturtevant has effectively been underwriting the event even though taxpayer money has never been used to cover any costs.
“The combination of decreasing sponsorships and increasing costs has led to an ever-increasing reliance on the proceeds from the actual event (from the parking, food & beverage, and activity vendors at the event),” a statement from the committee reads. “This in turn has led to increased financial exposure to the Village in the event the committee cannot cover the expenses with event proceeds, since, ultimately, the Village is responsible for any funding shortfall that the committee may incur.”
What the committee hopes to do is build a healthy bank account with the fund balance from 2014, the Santa Dinner, the upcoming pancake breakfast and some additional activities to bring the fireworks back in 2016.
“The goal is to have money in the bank so we aren’t scrambling to fill the hole every year,” Village President Steve Jansen confirmed. “The fireworks have been surviving on a thread since 2007 so hopefully this gives us the time to come up with some really out-of-the-box ideas to keep going.”
There’s also a shortage of ready, willing and able volunteers, he pointed out.
“The core group of volunteers is comprised mostly of the same people who have been on board since the fireworks were removed from the annual budget in 2007, and they’re burned out,” he said. “It’s been difficult to get people to step up and help and that’s demoralizing.”
The possibility of ending the fireworks first came up right after the 2014 event; committee members said then they were getting tired, and Jansen acknowledged the difficulties.
“We would love more volunteers from anywhere,” he said then. “There’s a lot of talent out there that could really benefit the fireworks. Otherwise, if we can’t get more people to step up and help, I don’t see how we can keep this going.”
Money already raised by the Santa Dinner last December and proceeds from the pancake breakfast will still be funneled to the fireworks, Harbach said, on the assumption the fireworks are a go next year. But, those events will continue as village traditions with or without the fireworks because activities like this are part of what makes Sturtevant so unique.
“While those events were initiated as fireworks fundraiser activities, we believe they can now stand on their own as true community events, and only further enhance Sturtevant’s ‘small town feel,'” the committee’s statement continues.
Jansen said he doesn’t remember a summer when there weren’t fireworks in Sturtevant, but he’s optimistic that people will come together to get the fireworks back in the sky where they belong.
“Hopefully we’ll get some new blood who understands this is a year-long process,” he added. “I know people will be disappointed, but then it’s time to get involved.”