Ayear ago, Marshall Community SERVICES' Doug Goodmund stood in the newsroom of the Independent and said 2009 might be the last year Marshall, the largest city in Lyon County, puts on a 4th of July fireworks show.
Scary thought for a city of almost 13,000 that prides itself on promoting a family atmosphere as much as possible. But because the Marshall Fire Department was justifiably getting out of the fireworks business due, in part, to liability issues and licensure costs, Goodmund feared rising prices and shrinking budgets would force the city to shut down the annual show.
"We were always very happy with the firemen, but we understood their concerns - liability issues and that kind of stuff," Goodmund said. "And the local fire fighters had to give up their 4th of July; they wanted to enjoy the show, too, with their families. So last year we went to a display that cost more money, but it was very well pulled off."
The cost of pulling it off went from about $5,000 in previous years with the fire department working the show to $11,500 last year when Melrose Pyrotechnics (now Pyrotechnic Display Inc.) out of Clear Lake put the show on. But thanks to city and community contributions, including the show's biggest supporter, Hy-Vee, the show did go on last year and will again this year. The Marshall City Council on Tuesday approved an $8,500 contract with Premiere Pyrotehnics Inc. of Granite Falls, which has put on fireworks displays at Prairie's Edge Casino in the past. Premiere Pyrotechnics fireworks are brought in from Missouri.
The history of Marshall's fireworks goes back about 15 years, Goodmund said, when Hy-Vee put on a softball tournament and served chicken and had a smaller fireworks display for the city. That grew into a day-long community celebration now known as Marshall's July 4th Festival of Kites that, despite budget cuts and tightened spending, will continue this year at Independence Park with more activities, including the always-popular Marshall City Band concert.
"We knew with budget cuts that we'd have to do some additional fundraising," Goodmund said. "We have a number of contributors and we're still working on it - you can be a Patriot Sponsor, a Minuteman sponsor, a Betsy Ross sponsor. Hy-Vee is a Patriot sponsor, the fire department is kicking in some dollars, the historical society is contributing and having vendors come in to do more things.
"We're very fortunate," Goodmund added. "Our community leaders, the city council realize the value of having an event like this. It does bring a lot of people out. Not everyone can go to the lake and it gives them the opportunity to enjoy the 4th. It's just good family time and it's targeted as being a great family event at a very nice venue at Independence Park."
Goodmund said last year's public response to the show was extremely positive, and although it's difficult to determine what this year's show will be like with a different company, he's confident people will walk away happy.
"When you look at all these fireworks orders, it's hard to tell how much bang for the buck you're getting - and how many bangs," Goodmund said. "It will be interesting to see with the change in companies. It will be a different kind of show, but we feel it will be a great show."
Marshall's 4th of July event is now a tradition. Marshall residents, and surely people from out of town, fill Independence Park every 4th. And Marshall needs to continue doing it. Marshall needs summer festivals or events like Shades of the Past, Sounds of Summer and the soon-to-debut SkyFest in July. Cities that want to be major players in things like amateur sports need to, at the same time, have the resources to offer their residents - and visitors to the area - things to do.
A 4th of July without fireworks is like a Christmas tree without decorations. For Marshall, a county seat, home to an NCAA Division II University and the headquarters of an international company, not putting on a fireworks show would've been embarrassing. Almost inexcusable. Moreover, shutting down the show would be an insult to the residents of Marshall. Businesses like Hy-Vee and groups like the Lyon County Historical Society, as well as the people who work to plan the annual event and help raise money for it, deserve recognition for doing their part in making sure this year's 4th is not a dud.