4th of July fete may be in peril Kiwanis loses charter, may not do fireworks

April 11, 1996|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Howard County's Fourth of July celebrations soon may be without their biggest bang.

The Columbia Kiwanis Club, which has sponsored the lakefront fireworks show the last six years, lost its charter last month because of falling membership.

Although the group hopes to have its charter restored before this Fourth of July or join with another organization to sponsor the event, members say their now 13-member group must increase by 10 members or the club's charter will not be reinstated.

That could endanger the future of Columbia's fireworks show because the club would be uninsured. Its parent organization, Kiwanis International, normally insures events sponsored by its affiliates.

The annual fireworks display over Columbia Town Center's Lake Kittamaqundi draws an estimated 40,000 visitors. It costs about $20,000 to stage but has brought in more than that in recent years from parking fees -- proceeds that have been distributed among the nonprofit groups that have joined with the Kiwanis as sponsors.

"Between now and July 3, we'll work our butts off" to put on this year's fireworks show, M. J. Cole Drew, president of the Columbia Kiwanis Club, said during an unofficial group lunch meeting.

"We'd like to continue doing it in the future," he said yesterday. "We get a thrill out of throwing the biggest party in Columbia, in Howard County."

If the 7-year-old Kiwanis Club can't sponsor the event in the future, county government, the Columbia Association (CA) or some other organization could take it over.

But County Executive Charles I. Ecker said the future of the fireworks show likely would remain the responsibility of community groups, not the county, which usually donates about $5,000 toward the event.

"We would have to see," he said. "I would hope a community group would do it."

Concern about the fireworks show caught Columbia Association officials by surprise yesterday.

Maggie Brown, association vice president and director of community relations, said the association had no comment yesterday about what it would do if the Kiwanis Club couldn't sponsor the event.

She said the association, which contributes about $3,000 to the event, was unaware that the club had lost its charter. "I didn't know any of this had taken place," Ms. Brown said.

The Kiwanis Club began sponsoring the Fourth of July celebration -- which includes lakefront entertainment and food -- in 1990. Before that, Columbia's Fourth of July Committee organized the event, but the group dissolved after the Fourth of July, 1989.

When the Kiwanis Club took over, it gained volunteer support from nonprofit organizations, Scout troops, churches and other groups, which collected the $3 parking fees that paid for much of the event.

Each of the groups involved received a portion of the proceeds based on the number of volunteers who participated.

Pub Date: 4/11/96

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