This year, the success of the Fourth of July celebration will fall to the people.
Two months ago, Port St. Joe Mayor Mel Magidson sanctioned a committee to plan the annual Fourth of July festivities with the intent of placing the ownership on the public.
Due to economic hardships, many communities have foregone their fireworks displays due to the high cost associated with them.
Not wanting to cancel anything, the committee, consisting of Helen Magidson, Mike Lacour, Steve Kerigan, Barbara Radcliff, Charlotte Pierce, Terese Kent, Ann Jarosz and Dana Boyer quickly secured a $5,000 donation from the Tourist Development Council to combine with $5,000 raised during last summer’s Centennial Celebration events.
“Everybody loves the fireworks,” said committee member Steve Kerigan, “They’re a hometown tradition and, while in the past, local government paid for them, this year the money’s just not there.”
Not wanting to put financial pressures on local businesses that get tapped for many events throughout the year, the committee decided to look to the public for assistance in getting the fireworks display off the ground and into the sky.
The committee is seeking those citizens to donate $10-$25 dollars to help ensure that this year’s Independence Day celebration rivals all of those that came before it.
“You can only go to local businesses for so long,” said Kerigan. “We’re not big corporate America, and they already get hit up for every other function.
“We need the public’s help to keep the tradition alive and moving forward.”
The committee will reuse decorations from the Centennial Celebration and host a series of events on Friday, July 4.
Additional funds raised will help create a reserve for the 2015 fireworks display.
On Friday, May 23 a fundraiser concert will be held at the Centennial Building. The Villagers will perform for the public as a “down home, all-American” holiday kickoff.
The Villagers, fronted by college basketball coach Cliff Ellis, are best known for their 1960s hit, “Laugh it Off,” which reached No. 1 on the WDLP Funtastic 59 chart in Michigan and “Where Have You Been” hit No. 4 on the WBAM Top 40 in Montgomery.
The group performed at the Centennial Building on July 4, 1968 and 2014 will mark their return visit.
Tickets are available for $15 and volunteers will serve boiled peanuts, hot dogs, popcorn and peanuts and a cash bar will be on-site. More than 100 tickets have already been sold for the event.
During the Centennial Celebration, an outdoor concert was planned but ultimately canceled due to rain.
The Villagers performed the following night at the Thirsty Goat to a packed house and Kerigan said there was a big calling from the community to bring them back.
Festivities to be held on July 4 around downtown Port St. Joe include a pancake breakfast at City Commons Park a flag ceremony complete with patriotic songs and a parade will make its way down Reid Avenue. Various children’s activities will take place throughout the day at George Core Park.
“The Fourth isn’t just another day off from work,” said committee head Dana Boyer. “We’re having a flag ceremony to remind people of the true meaning of the holiday.”
The evening will kick off with a low country shrimp boil fundraiser and a commemorative ceremony. Prior to the annual fireworks display, 14-piece Panama City big band, Go Big or Go Home will perform an hour-long set on the George Core Park stage. After the display, the band will perform another 60-minute set to round out the night.
Kerigan said that after facing uncooperative weather during last year’s celebration, the committee had already come up with a contingency plan to ensure that the festivities would happen rain or shine. In the event of poor weather, live music would be moved to the Centennial Building, which the group already booked out just in case.
“I feel that the community will support this and continue to help make this celebration a joyous and wonderful event,” said Kerigan.
By asking for help from area citizens, the committee’s goal is to leave money in the city account for the 2015 fireworks and celebration so that tax dollars be used to support the services of the community.
“This is such a wonderful community and we’re not asking for much,” said Boyer. “When Port St. Joe pulls together, it does amazing things.”
Those who wish to make donations for the 2014 fireworks display can drop off checks at the Port St. Joe City Hall. Anyone who wishes to purchase tickets for The Villagers can do so at City Hall or No Name Café.