MARCO ISLAND — Viewers of tonight's Marco Island fireworks display can take pride in their community's effort to maintain a yearly tradition.
The community, led by a business owner, raised $20,000 so the show would go on as planned.
In an attempt to save money last winter, some City Council members argued eliminating the Fourth of July celebration would save the city $40,000.
"There was a feeling from some members that that was an easy way to cut expenses," said Chairman Jerry Gibson. "But as I say, it's important we as a community do come together on special occasions."
Residents took the podium during that December council meeting and the city agreed to pay for half of the display if someone stepped up to raise the other $20,000.
Joe Oliverio, owner of Joey's Pizza and Pasta House on the island, volunteered.
"This is the birth of our nation," Oliverio said at the time. "Everything else is secondary."
Months later, Oliverio credits a generous business community and a pervasive patriotism in Marco with the successful effort.
"It's never easy in these times to ask people to donate to something they feel should be paid for by the city," he said. "That was a lot of the feedback we got, but we stressed it was a community event."
Donations ranged from $100 to $3,200 and mainly came from business owners, Oliverio said. Fourth of July is the biggest economic driver for Marco Island business owners between Easter Sunday and Christmas, Oliverio added, and eliminating the celebration would have also led to an economic hardship for employees.
"It truly is a trickle-down effect when you have no money coming in," Oliverio said. "What we did should be an example to government in Washington that working with businesses is better for everybody."
Donations for next year's display are already being collected at Iberia Bank.