For an event that should be very uplifting for everyone, Marco's Annual July 4th fireworks display has been the cause for that 'feeling of dread' (angst) as our city fathers annually struggle to find the funds necessary to help celebrate one of the most patriotic holidays of the year. Sure there are other ways to party on that day but how better to finish a day long celebration than with an inspirational fireworks display.
At a City Council meeting a few months ago, funding this year's fireworks made its annual appearance on the agenda amid moans and groans about how to pay for it. A couple of the ideas kicked around by our councilor's included using the proceeds from the Farmers Market to fund the fireworks. Another bright idea posed was to assess each Marco property owner $2 to cover the cost. Neither of these ideas got to first base. Councilman Trotter expressed his shared frustration this way: "I've been through this process seven times already and we wait until May then there is a hurry-up decision … then council looks like Grinch's at the 11th hour if we chose not to offer funds."
Well put Councilman Trotter!
It was not until Faye Biles expressed her strong belief that if a community group would take up this challenge, "Marco Islanders would bend over backwards to give the money to fund our fireworks." It was immediately following those remarks that restaurateur Joe Oliverio stepped up to the podium to announce that he would accept that challenge. By the time the evening was over, Marco Chamber Executive Director Sandi Riedemann and I offered to help Joe raise half of the $42,000 needed for the July 4th fireworks. Quickly, the City Council agreed to match the ad hoc committee dollar for dollar so we were off and running. After all, we only had to raise $21,000 in a few months. Easy, right?
Let's see, what were the obstacles we faced? Bad economy. High unemployment. Islanders already feeling taxed to the hilt. Many other Marco organizations doing big time fundraising at the same time. Yikes!
Our small committee of three quickly opened a bank account to receive donations then we were good to go. Each of us meet in what I would call an informal casual 'strategy' meeting trying to come up with names of who we would contact to help make the fireworks display a reality this year.
An important question was who could we ask to donate that we haven't asked in the past? With all of the seemingly full-time fundraising that happens on Marco, it was hard for me to come up with a list of names that I have not asked for donations in the past. Yikes again. We each left our meeting believing that our cause was just and beneficial to everyone, individuals and businesses, on Marco.
Guess what? Fay Biles was 100 percent correct. Marco Islanders did "bend over backwards to give money" as she predicted earlier.
For example, I made my first phone call to Physicians Regional Healthcare System CEO Scott Campbell who, when told about the fundraising efforts underway, immediately asked when I wanted to pick up a check for $3,000. Wow! Suddenly, I began to believe this just might work. Scott's generosity was matched by nine other area businesses plus over 60 individuals who wrote checks to help get us to our goal. All of the Marco resort hotels along with the Realtors Association and other businesses got on board with donations. Individuals who would not tolerate our missing July 4th fireworks each donated amounts from $100 to $1,000.
One creative and generous Marco Island couple offered to hold a fireworks fundraiser in their 13,500 square foot penthouse condo at the top of the Belize in Cape Marco at no cost to our committee. Sal and Yvonne Balsamo invited over 100 guests to enjoy the spectacular view, fine wines, hors d'oeuvres and a three piece combo all at their expense. That event alone raised $7,000 or one third of our goal.
As we got closer to our $21,000 goal, I had a conversation with the treasurer of the Marco Island Civic Association, Bernardo Bezos who asked how close were we to hitting our target. After a few quick calculations, I told him how much we needed to go over goal. Following the next MICA board meeting, Bernardo called to say their board voted to issue a check to the Fireworks Fund in the amount needed to meet our objective. A check for over $3,000 was presented to us by MICA President Dick Adams and Bernardo a few days later. MICA put us over!
What a joy it was for our fireworks fund committee to present a check to the councilors for $21,000 at the June 18 City Council meeting. There were smiles all around and a nice sense of accomplishment for the committee members0
In my check presentation remarks to the council, I offered that our Fireworks Fundraising Committee members have agreed that we will do this again next year provided the City Council agrees, as they did this year, to match the funds we raise dollar for dollar. I still have not heard back from them on our offer.
Just as generous Marco Islanders privately funded our Big Flag, the new Veterans Memorial and the Traveling Vietnam Wall, they also made it possible to privately fund one half of the cost for our fireworks display last week. There is no shortage of patriotism on our island paradise as has been proven over and over again.
Independence Day, a.k.a. the Fourth of July, commemorates the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, declaring our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Red, white and blue adorn all decorations on that day which are the colors of our American flag thus patriotism should abound year around everywhere on the Fourth of July ... as it does on Marco Island.
God Bless America.