Janesville event seeking financial support

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June 30, 2009

Although $10,000 less will be spent on this year’s fireworks, viewers still should get ready to ooh and ahh.

Longtime local pyrotechnician Joel Thorn has worked his magic and figured out a way to give Fourth of July enthusiasts a show as good as any other.

“The quality of the show will still be comparable to years past,’’ said Dale Stevenson, noble grand of the Odd Fellows, this year’s event host.

The Green Bay company that supplies the shells for the fireworks gave additional discounts so Thorn wouldn’t lose a big number of shells, he said.

In the past, the Janesville Jaycees typically spent $30,000 on fireworks. Realizing that kind of money would be tough to raise in five months and with the current sluggish economy, the Odd Fellows agreed to scale back the fireworks to a $20,000 display.

Although all of the shells for the show are here, the hosts have paid for only one-quarter of them.

The Odd Fellows intend to pay the balance through donations. The group set up a fund at Anchor Bank’s two Janesville locations, and it has set up collection canisters and donations placards at businesses throughout the city. A hat also will be passed among the crowd by event hosts and sponsors wearing Rock ‘N’ Thunder T-shirts all three days, organizers said.

The Odd Fellows also are expecting donations to come in between now and the fireworks.

“We’d love to see local businesses that have made good and managed to survive on the local economy and the local community over the years step up and help out,” Stevenson said.

“A lot of people are under the impression that the city of Janesville has something to do with putting money into it, and it doesn’t. The city helps supply what it can—police, firefighters and parks stuff—to help the event happen. But financially they don’t have anything to do with funds toward the fireworks,” he said.

Cathy Comstock, event co-chair, said that if every person in Janesville gave $1 toward the celebration, “we would have the most awesome Fourth of July celebration ever.’’

Former Jaycees, Comstock and co-chairman Barry Golden agreed the Odd Fellows already are struggling financially, as the Jaycees did. But simply put, they don’t want to see the holiday celebration go away.

“Hopefully people will understand we’re trying very hard to keep this here. If the community still wants fireworks, they need to help,’’ Comstock said.

“Obviously if this goes off well and we’re able to survive this year, that’s going to give us a full year to bring it back for next year when we’ll be able to make use of our resources,’’ Stevenson said.

Still Comstock warned: “If the community doesn’t come out and support us, it will not happen next year.’’

“It could go the same way as the Jaycees,” Stevenson said, “and it could be gone.’’

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