Weekly newspaper, parks and recreation panel seek to bring fireworks back to Jefferson Co.

Commission asked to give $8,000 to help defray nearly $19,000 needed for July event

February 03, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Brilliance and bangs will explode in the dark over Job Corps Road when Fourth of July fireworks return to Jefferson County this summer after a three-year absence.

Toni Milbourne, managing editor of the Spirit of Jefferson Farmer's Advocate, and Jimmy Pierson, executive director of the Ranson (W.Va.) Parks and Recreation Commission, are heading up a committee of local officials, including Ranson Police Chief William Roper, to bring Independence Day fireworks back to the county.

The weekly newspaper and parks and recreation commission are co-sponsoring the event.

On Thursday, Milbourne, Pierson and Roper asked the Jefferson County Commission for $8,000 to help defray the nearly $19,000 needed to put on the planned July 2 program at Sam Michaels Park on Job Corps Road.

Milbourne said the county's five municipalities are being asked to pitch in $2,000 each.

The county commissioners spoke in favor of the allocation, but delayed a vote until they decide where to find $8,000.

"The last time Jefferson County had its own Fourth of July fireworks was when the Jefferson County Parks and Recreation Commission held them, but only in 2006, 2007 and 2008," Milbourne said.

"Every county should have its own Independence Day fireworks celebration," she said.

Pierson said local residents have to drive to Sharpsburg, Martinsburg (W.Va.) or even greater distances to see fireworks.

Milbourne said the committee is facing a March 1 downpayment deadline to Digital Lightning, the fireworks vendor.

The company charges more than $8,000 to set up and fire off the display, she said.

Additional expenses for portable toilets, insurance, trash pickup and donations to the sheriff department reserves for security bring the total close to $19,000, Milbourne said.

The committee will hold several fundraising events, including a $25-a-head buffet and silent auction in the third floor ballroom at Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races on March 19, plus a simultaneous boot drive in all five municipalities.

For years, the National Park Service sponsored Fourth of July fireworks on Bolivar Heights. The displays ended after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for security reasons, Milbourne said. The night sky was not lit up again on a grand scale again in the county until the parks and recreation board brought them back for those three years, Milbourne said.

"We have to travel outside Jefferson County for many things," Milbourne said. "We have no public swimming pool, no movie theaters (except for the Shepherdstown Opera House) or a real shopping mall. We need our own Fourth of July fireworks."

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