By ERIK HIDLE
For 25 years the Hood River Eyeopeners Lions Club have set the sky ablaze every July 4th with the annual fireworks show. However, this year will be the last, unless funding for the tradition is found within the community.
Russ Paddock, head of the 4th of July Committee and member of the Eyeopeners Lions Club, is searching the community, asking for donations, looking for anyone who will help save the celebration.
“This entire show is run on community donations,” Paddock said. “It’s been that way for 25 years, but now it seems that the community has forgotten their role with the show. Some people have even been offended, or angry about our request for donations.”
This wasn’t the case 25 years ago, when the Eyeopeners took over the show. The festivities were originally run by the Junior Chamber, however that organization folded and the Eyeopeners took over. Now, however, things have changed.
“The government adds new permit requirements, prices of fireworks have gone up considerably, it takes three years to get certified so you can launch the fireworks. Things just aren’t as easy as they used to be,” said Paddock.
With $10,000 worth of shells and explosives already ordered for this year, the Eyeopeners are trying to find 10 sponsors willing to donate $1,000 each. Although already committed to this year’s performance, the club has the disappointing history of a $2,000 shortfall in funding over the past three years, and is in need of more solid support to continue the show.
Paddock explained, “Two years ago we had a $12,000 show and came up short, last year an $11,000 show and we again came up short, this year we only ordered $10,000 because we just can’t keep losing that much money.”
Last year, the committee organized a direct mailing to 17,000 households and businesses in the Mid Columbia area only to receive 480 responses. This year, the club is taking a grant from the Hood River Lions chapter to help cover its losses.
“It really would be awful to lose the show,” Paddock said. “It’s just that time and money are running out. The club has to start in January to acquire the 20 or more permits to satisfy the legalities of the show and the volunteers put in another $10,000 worth of work each year. This show is easily worth more than $20,000. If we were calling in a professional launch team, the show’s cost would be well more than it currently is.”
As of press time, the Eyeopeners had acquired $5,000 in donations toward this year’s show.
When Independence Day arrives this year, explosions will echo through the Gorge. However, what joy is found in the spectacle may be lost if the tradition is allowed to fade away with the smoke and sparks of the grand finale.
Donations to the 4th of July Committee can be made at the Eyeopeners fireworks booth in the Rite Aid parking lot in Cascade Commons or by sending in a donation to the Eyeopeners Lions Club at 3950 Hays Drive, Hood River, OR, 97031.