Popular Columbia fireworks brings crowd to lakeside Independence Day show dedicated to memory of city founder James Rouse

June 30, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

Columbia's lake front will be the site of an annual rite Thursday, as thousands of Independence Day spectators try to squirm their way into that perfect spot to watch fireworks light up the sky across Lake Kittamaqundi.

Hundreds of aerial shells are scheduled to explode across the skies during Columbia's 29th Fourth of July fireworks display -- a show that each year draws more than 30,000 people from throughout the Baltimore-Washington area.

The display will be dedicated to Columbia's founder, James W. Rouse, who died this year, said Cole Drew, president of the Kiwanis Club of Columbia, which is sponsoring the half-hour show at 9: 30 p.m. Thursday. The rain date will be July 5.

"It's been said it's the best show outside the Washington Monument," said Drew, referring to the annual Independence Day celebration in the district. "There's probably 500 or more shots [fireworks] in the course of the show."

And as he has done since 1980, Mark Walch, an Ellicott City specialist in pyrotechnics, has volunteered to helpt launch the fireworks. "It will be a good show with a really good finale," he promises.

The 7-year-old Columbia Kiwanis has sponsored the show for the past six years, taking over from the Columbia Fourth of July Committee, which disbanded after the 1989 Fourth of July celebration.

The Columbia Association, which manages Columbia's recreational facilities, will contribute about $3,000 to help pay for the $17,000 production, and the county government will provide about $6,000, Drew said. The rest of the money comes from parking fees and other charges.

The show almost was defused earlier this year when the Kiwanis Club fell to 13 members, not enough to maintain a charter.

Without the charter, the club would have been uninsured by Kiwanis International, its parent group.

But because the club has managed to increase its membership to 16 -- one more than the minimum of 15 required -- it was able to salvage the show.

"We're off the bubble," Drew said.

The event is free, though a $3 parking fee will be charged at adjacent lots. There will be live bands, 12 food vendors, face-painting and "the funnel cake guy," Drew said, as well as help from 150 volunteers.

L Organizers attribute much of the show's popularity to Walch.

"The show is different each year," Drew said. "He does an excellent job of mixing it up."

Walch said he will use fireworks supplied by Garden State Fireworks Co. in Millington, N.J. Typically, there are between 800 to 1,300 aerial shells launched at the Columbia fireworks display and more than 100 candle fireworks launched from the ground.

"I think it's a combination of patriotism and seeing the colors and hearing the effects of the fireworks," Walch said of the crowds that come.

"[People] like to feel that pounding in their chest."

Pub Date: 6/30/96

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