Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

The importance of fireworks to a community
This could be last year town budget funds display

by Steve Targo

June 16, 2011

Bloomfield — A hand-drawn thermometer is on the sign Rich Olenoski and Jack Faulhaber installed May 25, during a gray, windy afternoon near the Pell Lake Beach.

It’s the same design other civic groups use when they’re heading a fundraiser. The higher up the thermometer, the bigger the number. At the top is the number representing the dollar amount being sought by the Town Parks, Lakes and Recreation Committee — $5,000.

Olenoski said that’s what the committee needs to continue having fireworks during the town’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

“The Town Board said a tight budget is why they may not have fireworks,” he said. “I told Kenny (Monroe, the town chairman) if they don’t, you’re asking for trouble.”

Olenoski said it’s an important part of the celebration, one which typically begins at noon with one of the area’s longest parades and ends with the fireworks display over Pell Lake.

“We have one of the best parades here and the best fireworks,” Olenoski said. “People come here from all over.”

Fortunately, this year, they won’t have to come just for the parade.

However, during a June 1 telephone interview, Monroe said he’s not sure town government can continue to foot the bill for fireworks in the future.

“But we will have fireworks this year,” he said.

According to Monroe, a fireworks display has been a part of the town’s Fourth of July celebration for about 17 years.

It’s a holiday which doesn’t go unnoticed in Bloomfield.

After the 1.5-mile parade from the beach to Bloomfield Town Hall, there is usually some sort of party — a cookout, arts and crafts booths or a Bouncy House and other activities. There’s usually a contest to judge the best floats in the parade, which features several area fire and rescue departments, businesses and civic organizations.

But what caps it all off is the fireworks display over Pell Lake, at the beach. It drew enough spectators last year to force automobile traffic to move slowly from The Big House to the former St. Mary’s Church property.

Monroe said the turnout during Fourth of July fireworks reminds him of the early days, back when a train coming from Chicago used to stop in the community and Pell Lake was the preferred hangout, especially the beach.

“It’s really great to see the community together for something like (the Fourth of July fireworks),” Monroe said. “We’ve been told that it’s one of the best displays people have seen. I’ve been told this personally by a number of people.”

That’s why he said, by a ratio of 6-1, people are in support of the town continuing to pay for the fireworks display.

Explosions vs. raises

Although Monroe said the issue came during the creation of last year’s budget, he said he brought it up at last month’s regular Town Board meeting.

“I said it was very possible there wouldn’t be fireworks this year or that this would be the last year we have it,” Monroe said. “It’s something that’s been in the works since last October, when we were doing the budget.”

In that budget, several areas were slashed to help offset the burden for town taxpayers. Monroe said some employees didn’t take wage increases and there were cutbacks in other areas, including the Town Highway Department. Among the employees who refused to accept raises this year were Police Chief Lloyd S. Cole and Town Clerk Martie Wells.

“If you’re talking cuts and you’re going to have fireworks, is that fair? When we were making cuts, we wondered if we should buy the fireworks again and spend money on something that we’ll just blow up,” Monroe said.

That begs the question, will the town have fireworks displays after this year?

Monroe said that likely will depend on the success of the committee’s fundraising efforts.

Usually, the committee raises money for the Fourth of July celebration by putting together an advertising booklet. This year, committee members are scrambling to put together other methods for soliciting donations to the cause.

On May 25, Faulhaber said the committee has donation boxes in several Bloomfield locations, including the Town Hall and the Pell Lake Mobil, N1203 Park Drive.

During a June 2 telephone interview, Town Board Supervisor and Committee Chairman Tom Sullivan said other members are working on placing jars in area taverns. He said he will speak to Monroe about Trinity Church, which he said agreed to donate half the proceeds from its upcoming pig roast to the cause.

“So that’s a possibility,” Sullivan said.

As of last week, the thermometer sign by the beach is up to $1,000. In a voice mail message Friday, Sullivan reported raising about $3,000 for the ad booklet.

It appears at least this year’s Fourth of July will go out with a bang.

“I think it’s good for the town (and) I’m just happy to still have it,” Monroe said.