March 26, 2019
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Fireworks funds short in Bangor, group expects to meet goal by July

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN

BANGOR, Maine — The nonprofit organization responsible for funding the city’s Fourth of July fireworks display is short about $13,000 for this year’s show, but it expects to make its goal in time for July.

The Bangor Fourth of July Corp. is a nonprofit arm of the Bangor-Brewer Kiwanis Clubs and works with the five area Kiwanis Clubs to put on the city’s celebration. Tony Bernatche, the corporation’s president, said the $11,675 raised so far has come mostly in the past month and that the corporation is soliciting local business owners and individuals for further donations to reach its $25,000 goal. The city has provided $5,000 for the fireworks, Bernatche said.

“No ifs, ands or buts about it, we will make it happen,” Bernatche said. Despite the optimistic expectations, securing funding for the Fourth of July has been tough this year.

“We are behind the ball where we should be at this point. Last year we were probably at $20,000 at this point,” he said.

Funding fireworks is challenging in towns facing dwindling budgets. Some towns and municipalities cut back or canceled fireworks shows last year, according to Bangor Daily News archives. Despite rumors, Bar Harbor, Augusta and Bangor all are expecting their annual light shows. Public demand for Fourth of July fireworks is driving some Maine towns and cities to keep the funding for shows, according to Steven Marson, president and CEO of Central Maine Pyrotechnics Inc., the business producing Bangor’s fireworks display this year.

“When they get to town meetings, people say, ‘Look, we’re not traveling, we’re staying home … and we want to have fireworks,’” Marson said.

Marson said business has been good for him this year because his competitor recently went out of business and he can offer fixed prices for three years for the first time. He has 65 fireworks shows lined up this year — more than he had last year — and hasn’t had any cancellations.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce has all of the $31,000 it needs this year for its Fourth of July celebration, according to Executive Director Chris Fogg. The Bar Harbor Town Council voted to contribute $10,500 for the celebration, despite discussion of possibly reducing the amount, according to Fogg.

“I heard that they’ve had some budget challenges,” Fogg said, but “there wasn’t even any discussion of cutting” out the town’s contribution entirely.

“Eventually the town decided to look elsewhere to save money,” Fogg said.

Augusta also expects to see fireworks come July Fourth, and the town has $8,000 allocated for it this year, according to Bruce Chase, Augusta’s recreational director. There was some confusion in Augusta about whether there would be funding for Fourth of July events this year after recent news articles gave the impression there wouldn’t be, but the city is having its parade and fireworks, Chase said.

There are now 66 fireworks display permits approved for events on or around the Fourth of July weekend throughout Maine this year, according to listings on the state fire marshal’s website. The State Fire Marshal’s Office is responsible for issuing permits for fireworks shows, but has yet to receive a permit application from Bangor, which has until June 14 to apply. The website also has no listing for permits issued to Portland, Bar Harbor or Augusta.

The Bangor Fourth of July Corp.’s current donors include Van Sykle Kia Suzuki, Bernatche Auto Body, Cornwell Tools, the Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis Club, Orono Old Town Kiwanis Club, Brewer Kiwanis Club, Penobscot Cleaning Co., Black Bear Inn, Fireside Inn, Bangor Federal Credit Union, Maine Savings Bank, Merrill Bank and Bernatche declined to say which businesses or individuals were being solicited for further donations.

“Right now we’re putting every effort forward to reach out to the community to do it. We have great expectations,” Bernatche said.

The Bangor display is the largest in the region and is viewed by an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 people every year.

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