Rotarians take over 4th of July fireworks show at Farm Museum

Jaycees had sponsored the event until last year

March 09, 2004|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Four months before this year's scheduled 30th annual Fourth of July fireworks display at the Carroll County Farm Museum, a local service club has agreed to handle the job of organizing the event that draws more than 10,000 spectators.

The Bonds Meadow Rotary Club voted last week to take on the project, said Joseph Legge, a member who suggested the idea two weeks ago - and consequently has been named its chairman.

"It was my idea, so I volunteered," said Legge, co-owner of Four Seasons Sports Complex and Fitness Center near Hampstead. "I'm hoping to make this a big community event for the Fourth of July."

Farm museum officials are delighted to have someone else pick up the most popular part of their Old Fashioned July 4th Celebration.

"We're very happy to be partnering with the Rotary," said Dottie Freeman, farm museum manager for 18 years. "I was very happy when Joe called me."

Last year, the farm museum had to run the event and borrow money from the county, as well as beg for local support to keep the county fireworks display aloft, she said.

"We were just in limbo the past two years," she said, but determined "to do anything and everything we could to have the fireworks remain in Carroll County."

The Westminster Jaycees sponsored and ran the event for 28 years until last year, said Jaycees President Lisa DiPaula, but increased responsibilities, along with decreasing membership and donations, led them to pull out.

"We're still volunteering this year" at the fireworks event, she said.

For all those years, the Jaycees paid all the bills and worked from 5:30 a.m. into the next day's cleanup to put on the event, DiPaula said. Then the group was asked to sign a contract that would have made the organization responsible for policing alcohol, illegal fireworks and pets. It was too much for them to handle, she said.

"We have 22 members now," she said. "We've been losing money on the project for years," including a $3,000 loss one rainy July 4.

Freeman said she was able to get a loan last year from the county, which has since been repaid, and donations from local businesses enabled the fireworks display to go on.

"We had to do this in seven weeks," Jackie Koch, marketing assistant at the county-owned museum, said of last year's scramble. "A lot of people came together to make it happen."

Legge hopes that will happen again this year.

"The Bonds Meadow Rotary has committed to take on the fireworks," Legge said. Last week, the Westminster Rotary Club agreed to join in. He plans to approach local businesses for sponsorships and to ask service groups to help out.

The fireworks alone cost $13,115, he said, but he hopes to raise closer to $30,000 -- putting about half toward next year's celebration and donating the rest to charities.

"When you are looking at a county the size of Carroll County and the number of businesses, for this type of event [$30,000] should not be a whole lot of money to raise," he said. But "it will take everybody's involvement."

Rotary International is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders, with about 1.2 million Rotarians in more than 31,000 clubs in 166 countries, according to its Web site.

Legge hopes two other Rotary clubs - Mount Airy and Sykesville - will join the two in Westminster to help sponsor the event.

"What we really want to do is get the community together. This is a big event," Legge said. "I'm hoping to do it every year for the next 20 years."

People interested in participating should call 410-239- 3366.

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