Atwater struggles to keep July 4th celebration alive

06/06/2014 6:39 PM

06/06/2014 8:03 PM

Atwater’s long-standing Fourth of July celebration is at risk of being eliminated because of a lack of money.

According to Greg McDaniel, event director and chairman, the committee’s budget is still reeling from last year’s low turnout. If this year’s event is not successful, it is likely that there will be no fireworks show next year, he said.

“Last year we had a really hot Fourth of July. Some people came and left right away, and some of our vendors left early, too,” McDaniel said. “That really hurt us. If we don’t get more sponsors than what we have now,” he said, “we won’t be able to afford fireworks next year.”

To gather more community support and donations, McDaniel has created the “Help Save the 4th of July Celebration” fund. With less than a month until July 4, the committee is only halfway to its goal of at least 200 sponsors.

McDaniel, event chairman for 15 years, said the fireworks show at the former Castle Air Base would be cut first. The festival, parade and concert would be easier to save, as they are not as costly to put on, he said.

“Fireworks are the most expensive part of this event, and it creates no revenue,” he said. “But it’s also what most people want to see.”

McDaniel said fireworks alone cost about $23,000. The average total cost of the celebration is $35,000.

Diane Khyn, concert director, said she is trying her best to schedule entertainment on a very tight budget.

So far, Khyn has radio disc jockey Dave Luna from K97.5 as the night’s host. Country blues band the Whiskey Tones and Friends will be the headline act.

“When I took over this job a year ago, I didn’t realize how bad the situation was,” Khyn said. “It would be heartbreaking to see this go.

“It’s just such a big tradition for the people of Atwater,” she added. “So many generations have taken part in this celebration. My husband was in the parade when he was in the seventh grade. He’s 58 now. And that’s the case for so many people in this town.”

Khyn believes most Atwater residents care about saving the Fourth of July celebration, and she understands that many people can’t afford to donate much. But any donation, no matter how small, helps, she said.

Festivities kick off at 7:30 a.m. with the Run for Independence at Ralston Park, between Grove Avenue and Third Street. A parade follows on Winton Way and a festival at Ralston Park. The night ends with a concert and fireworks show at 6 p.m. at Castle.

McDaniel and Khyn said the 55-year-old celebration is key to the history of Atwater and is known to attract people from surrounding cities.

“Atwater is all about tradition, and this Fourth of July celebration is part of that tradition.,” McDaniel said. “We are a town with about 27,000 people, but in better years we have drawn near 50,000 people to the area.”

McDaniel is hopeful sponsors and the community will step up to make this a festive Fourth.

People interested in making donations or learning more about the events can visit www.atwater4thofjuly.com.

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