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Rock Aqua Jays see success as Fourth of July event sponsor

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
July 6, 2010
— Sunday’s Fourth of July fireworks show and celebration was successful enough that it could become an annual event, Rock Aqua Jays President Joel Shapiro said Monday.

The Aqua Jays, Janesville’s local water ski show team, hosted "Independence Day on the Rock" for the first time this year, organizing a fund drive for the celebration at Traxler Park. It included fireworks and a ski show, along with daytime events, a beer garden and food.


The effort came together following failed attempts by the local Odd Fellows chapter and the now defunct Janesville Jaycees to host the community’s annual fireworks show.


Earlier, the Aqua Jays had estimated the fireworks and the celebration would cost about $15,000.


Shapiro said that by Wednesday of last week, the Aqua Jays had raised enough through their fund drive to pay for the event. Throughout the holiday weekend, he said, pledges continued to roll in.


“There’s no doubt that we exceeded our goals,” he said.


Shapiro said the Aqua Jays will have a financial report on the celebration and fireworks show in about two weeks, and the group’s board of directors likely will decide within the next month whether it will host another fireworks show next year.


Shapiro said prospects are good.


“The general sentiment of the team is that it turned out great, and people are already kicking around ideas for next year. Why wouldn’t we do it again?”


The outcome is a surprise, considering the Aqua Jays had said earlier that fundraising alone wouldn’t pay for the fireworks show, and that the group was looking to food and beer sales at Sunday’s daylong celebration to recoup costs.


Attendance at Sunday’s daylong celebration was light, with about 600 to 800 people in attendance, Shapiro said.


“The threat of rain may have kept people away during the day,” he said.


Shapiro said attendance picked up leading up to the ski show Sunday evening, with about 6,000 people turning out by dusk to attend the 23-minute-long fireworks show.


Earlier, the Aqua Jays had planned to submit a request that the City of Janesville pay $1,500 towards the fireworks show. The Aqua Jays also had planned to ask the city for permission to charge a $2 parking fee at the fireworks show.


The Aqua Jays withdrew both requests last week amid negative public feedback.


Shapiro wouldn’t comment on the decision, but he said the Aqua Jays appreciated help from city crews and the Janesville Police Department for crowd control and cleanup Sunday.


“If that’s all the city is able to provide in the form of tax-funded services, we’re okay with that and we’re very gracious,” Shapiro said.


He added the Aqua Jays are thankful for the dozens of sponsors who made the fireworks show possible, and for those who worked behind the scenes to help raise funds for the show.


“The community really stepped up on this one,” he said.



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