The rockets’ red ink: City, Chamber grapple with paying for Fourth of July fireworks display

Lance Shearer
File 2015: Distant lightning adds to the show. The skies cleared for Marco Island's Fourth of July fireworks show  giving thousands on the beach the show they wanted.

It’s a quick way to blow up the budget. Or shoot off a lot of cash in a hurry.

But if patriotic citizens don’t step up to fund the Fourth of July fireworks display for the upcoming holiday, the fireworks could fizzle – maybe not this year, but eventually.

“I’m out there trying to make a big bang, but the going has been slow,” said Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce executive director Dianna Dohm. “We’re trying to secure half. We need to come up with $26,000.”

Dohm wrote a letter to Chamber members, the sentiments of which apply as well to any of the thousands of island residents who throng the beach on July 4 to watch the spectacle as the fireworks light up the sky.

“As a community, we are moving forward with plans for the 2017 Independence Day celebration on Marco Island,” says Dohm’s letter. “The purpose of this letter is to ask for your help in sustaining the level and quality of this year’s fireworks display, which is such an important part of our American cultural tradition.

“Many citizens, community organizations and businesses also support this tradition and continue with efforts to raise funds for the island’s Independence Day Celebration. Therefore, we are asking for donations to assist in making sure the City celebrates our Fourth of July as in past years.”

Visitors come to the island for the fireworks, and spend money at local businesses, said the letter. Unlike the winter months, when it seems one more visitor might be one too many, tourists are harder to come by during the months of summer.

The fireworks contractor, said City Councilor Joe Batte, had raised the price this year.

“I don’t remember his reason for the increase, but they’re pretty much the only game in town,” he said. The 50/50 split between municipal tax dollars and private contributions dates back to his early days on the council, said Batte.

“I think it was 2011 when we first did this. It’s a public-private partnership, and I think it’s a good one. The community has been very responsive; they’ve always come up with their part of it.” If they don’t this year, that would be the first time – and perhaps the last, said Batte.

“The city would be stuck paying the rest, and I personally have a real problem with that. We all benefit from this. I don’t want the taxpayers to be on the hook for the entire amount.”

Council Chairman Larry Honig echoed Batte’s remarks.

“I think the whole concept is a win-win, that the chamber of commerce pioneered. Fireworks are friendly, they promote tourism, and year ’round residents benefit as well. It’s a perfect partnership,” said Honig.

At presstime, Dohm said the chamber had received donations in the amount of $12,525
toward the $26,000 goal, and had not received funds from some of the “usual suspects,” the big resort hotels that have traditionally taken the lead in giving.

The largest contributions received, she said, had come MICA, the Marco Island Civic Association, which put up $5,000, and from the dental office of Dr. Rick Siegel, in the amount of $3,000.

“He’s been phenomenal,” said Dohm. “Even with a new practice, he’s so busy he doesn’t have to advertise, but he says he wants to give it back.” Another $1,000 came from a donor who wished to remain anonymous.

The Chamber is glad to keep anyone anonymous who so wishes, but also glad to recognize those who contribute to the effort. Those donating to the effort as of press time include the following:

  • Leonard & Sandra Schuman
  • Katherine O'Hara
  • Dianna and Kevin Dohm
  • Heidi Waters
  • Pat & Ron Rutledge
  • Curt and Jacquie Koon
  • Mrs. Betty Hawkins
  • Dr. Rick Siegel
  • Donna and Stan Niemczyk
  • Marco Island Civic Association
  • Marco Island Clothing Company
  • Marco Island Area Assoc. of Realtors
  • Snook Inn

“A contribution will recognize you or your organization as a partner in this effort,” reads Dohm’s letter. For a contribution of $3,000 or more, they offer to “make arrangements for you to present your check directly to City Council with media present.”

To contribute to the Fourth of July fireworks, drop off or send a check payable to the Marco Island Area Chamber of Commerce/Fireworks Fund, to the chamber at 1102 North Collier Blvd., Marco Island FL 34145. All donations are tax-deductible.