BONNERS FERRY — Although the warm, lazy days of summer seem a distant future, the planning is already underway for a celebration that is loved in the community — the Fourth of July. With its small town parade, entertainment, and spectacular fireworks display, it brings the people of Boundary County together. But something happened this year that threatened to take away the climactic finale of fireworks.
“I basically lost my source for wholesale fireworks, meaning that the show that we put on would probably be $20-25,000 if we were doing it retail,” said Fourth of July organizer Gary Leonard.
Thankfully, news came in on March 28 that changed all of that.
With the help from the former person who handled the account, Leonard was able to find a new wholesale opportunity.
“He gave our account up,” explained Leonard. “With his help, he contacted a person who is helping up out now.”
“They have got some interesting fireworks, and if the description is what it is, then it is something that I have been wanting to do for a long time,” said Leonard. “The show should be a bang up show.”
This will be Leonard’s eighth year organizing the Fourth of July celebration in Boundary County. He took over after a visit to the Troy, Mont., celebration in 2011.
“Troy was nice, they had a great fireworks show and there were a gazillion people, and they have a big party, and people were drinking … it was a little more impersonal,” he said. “My vision was to have what I always call a Norman Rockwell scene. People come down and it is kids, events, fun, there are some prizes, and local entertainment.”
Leonard’s vision has become a reality over the years. Although anyone is welcome to attend, Leaonard stressed that this celebration is for the residents of Boundary County.
Through donations, he and his team have been able to expand certain areas, like electrical firing of the fireworks.
“We are still going to do electric firing. I’m still a little apprehensive about how much it is going to cost this year,” said Leonard. “I’ve been trying to keep the cost of the show around $6,500 and last year it was higher than that because we had a surplus from the previous three and four years. I spend most of that on the firing system we used last year and I think the show came off really well last year with the electronics.”
Leonard had planned on expanding this year, but decided to hold off on getting more electronics. However, there will be some exciting new fireworks added to the lineup.
“I’m excited — there is one thing called ‘Skies Over Baghdad’ — it is a one hundred shot cake,” said Leonard. “When we do our finale, we do these things called cakes, and there will be like a hundred shots in it. I can hardly wait to see what that one is all about.”
Leonard is hoping to raise about $7,500 this year. The cost for last year’s event was $8,000, including raffle giveaways. The funding has come from local businesses and community members.
“It is made from donations from both businesses and private people,” said Leonard. “Some people give $5, some people give $100, some people give $20. Some of the companies give $500. I’ve had a $1,000 donation before. That makes for a good show.”
Donations can now be tax deductible as the operation, Bonners Ferry July Fourth, is now a 501c3. Donations can be made directly to the fund through Mountain West Bank or through the City of Bonners Ferry.
This year promises to bring lots of hometown fun in the form of entertainment.
“Tentatively right now the orchestra is going to play,” said Leonard. “I also have a country blues group who is going to play. We may have three separate entertainers.”
Despite that, Leonard does not want to expand too far and lose the genuine small town feel of the celebration.
“Bigger, better, faster, stronger isn’t always bigger, better, faster, stronger. I want to keep this thing as simple as I can so that it is sustainable,” he said.
n Leonard may have need of a magazine to use to store the fireworks, as they may be arriving earlier than usual. If anyone has the facility and would like to help, contact Leonard at email@example.com