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Park Rapids Fourth of July fireworks show needs money

The Park Rapids fireworks show is in jeopardy and needs more funding to continue.

"Along with everything else going on in the economy, we've kind of reached a crisis with funding," said Alan Zemek, Rotary Club member and fireworks coordinator. "The last couple years, we kind of went on auto pilot and people took it for granted."

The goal is to raise $20,000 to keep the fireworks going, he said. The reserve fund needs to be replenished in order to have fireworks in 2010.

"This next month is critical," Zemek said.

The Fourth of July fireworks in Park Rapids have become a highlight of the summer. The fireworks are lit in Heartland Park over Fish Hook River.

"As the sun goes down there is an endless stream of boats that come down Fish Hook Lake into the river," Zemek said. "And I think what makes that spot so neat is that when you see the fireworks up in the sky, you can look up in the sky and see the fireworks and it's also reflected in the water. So you have got this really spectacular light show and the sound is so wonderful."

Over the years, there has always been a lot of support. But a lot of people don't know that it's not free and no tax dollars are spent on the fireworks.

"It's all arranged and funded by private donations," Zemek said. "It's been so successful over the years, that the last few years it's been kind of taken for granted that it will always be there. But it's not something we can take for granted."

The fireworks have usually been funded by a committed group of business leaders in town but we really need to broaden the awareness and participation in the community. Our businesses are struggling a little bit."

The Park Rapids Rotary Club is responsible for putting the show together and getting it funded. The need for money is urgent.

"We've used up all the reserves," Zemek said. "Now we've reached the point where we don't have enough money to pay for the show we're already committed to."

There have been some challenge donations given already. The Park Rapids City Lodging Association has donated money, setting the bar. Other businesses have also begun to step forward.

"Fireworks is not just a tourist thing, it's for visitors and locals alike," said Katie Magozzi, Park Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. "At the end of the day, we're all in this together."

The Chamber of Commerce looks at that weekend as a community event but also an event for tourists, she said.

The PBR bull ride event will be July 3-5 and that is a destination event, Magozzi said.

Other activities that weekend include the Fourth of July parade, hosted by the Chamber. The parade also costs money, Magozzi said. A band concert is another annual event.

Entry forms for floats, cars, musical groups and animals are available by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 732-4111. The Chamber is also looking for parade sponsors.

People come to expect these events, he said. But if funds aren't raised, the event will have to be reduced.

"It's important that we, as a community, celebrate our democracy," Zemek said. "We have troops fighting all over the world. There was a time and a day when you weren't sure if the flag would fly the next morning."

To make a donation, send a check made out to NMF-Park Rapids Rotary Fireworks Fund, tax I.D. 41-1556013, to Park Rapids Rotary Club, PO Box 704, Park Rapids, MN 56470.