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Aqua Jays agree to host Fourth of July event

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ROCHELLE B. BIRKELO
January 15, 2010
— The results of a community survey have convinced the Rock Aqua Jays to host a one-day Fourth of July celebration this summer in Traxler Park.

The event will feature a performance by the show ski club, fireworks and a beer tent, said Joel Shapiro, club president.


Activities are scheduled for Sunday, July 4, with a rain date of Monday, July 5.


“Our philosophy with taking this on is keep it simple and start small,’’ Shapiro said.


Shapiro said the Aqua Jay’s informal, online survey generated 519 responses with 95 percent of respondents indicating they want fireworks.


“What would an Independence Day celebration be without the fireworks?’’ he said.


The Aqua Jays will perform their water ski show before fireworks are launched at dusk. The festival also will feature family-friendly activities survey respondents requested, but there won’t be a midway. A carnival with rides didn’t score high among survey respondents, and the Aqua Jays want to use the space for parking, Shapiro said.


No entry fee will be charged to access the park grounds, but the Aqua Jays will propose to city officials that holiday enthusiasts pay to park on park grounds.


“We’ll be working with the Janesville Police Department on the best way to park vehicles to allow emergency vehicles access,’’ Shapiro said.


People who took the survey overwhelming favored having local food vendors, he said.


“So that likely will be a key element of this event we’ll make reasonable and affordable for local flavor,’’ he said.


Other activities might include homemade boat races, canoe races, a car show, craft fair, teen activities and an area for local service groups to provide information about their organizations.


“We’re trying to do different activities that will bring down all age groups,” Shapiro said.


The Aqua Jays know one thing for sure—they need the event to include a beer tent. Years of experience hosting show ski tournaments show that a beer tent is a huge moneymaker, Shapiro said.


“Whether people agree or not, our financial records show that having a beer tent is very profitable. And if the community wants to continue having a Fourth of July with fireworks, they’ll have to allow us the flexibility to have this beer tent,’’ Shapiro said.


The Aqua Jays will form a planning committee including representatives from the police and fire departments and other community organizations.


One group sure to be represented will be Friends of Riverside Park. The Aqua Jays are looking at this group to coordinate activities at Riverside Park on Saturday, July 3.


The intent is for each group to host their own one-day event but combine advertising efforts to minimize financial risks, Shapiro said.


The Aqua Jays in November began exploring the possibility of hosting the Fourth of July celebration and fireworks. The event had been hosted by the Wisconsin Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge 14 and Rebekah Lodge, but they were left with a big debt after the 2009 celebration and announced they would be bowing out.


The Odd Fellows had taken over organizing Fourth of July festivities from the Janesville Jaycees, who hosted the event for many years. But at the end of 2008, the Wisconsin Jaycees dissolved the Janesville Jaycees charter because it didn’t have enough members.


Fundraising for the Fourth of July event, which has not yet been named, will be kept separate from the Aqua Jays’ core business of putting on ski shows, Shapiro said.



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