The City of Anderson’s July 3rd Celebration
● By Richard DuPertuis
By Richard DuPertuis
Photos by Jeff Adams
COMMUNITY FOR ANDERSON Explodes is poised to launch its biggest fireworks extravaganza ever, thanks to some mathematical calculations by civic leaders and a fire official willing to consider them. For this year’s annual July 3 celebration, pyrotechs will shoot for 300-foot burst ceiling, up from the 200-foot limit for the event from previous years.
And safely, according to Anderson City Councilman Baron Browning. “When the fireworks go up and they explode, there’s a radius of fallout,” he says. “Hot embers can reach the ground. You don’t want them falling where they can cause a fire.”
Browning says to be safe, the fire marshal restricted bursts over the fairgrounds to between 50 and 200 feet. But after last year’s show he, Anderson’s city manager and Anderson Fire Chief Steve Lowe took State Fire Marshal Ryan Masterson to the launch site. “We showed him the radius,” recalls Browning. “And I had this app on my phone that showed the distance you are, like from a structure over there.”
Masterson agreed to try it out. Which means a bigger show.
“Last year, we shot 12 number three shells,” says Browning, referring to the largest loads used at the event. “So this year they’re allowing as many as we can afford.”
“Afford” is the operative word, being that Community for Anderson Explodes is the nonprofit organization that raises funding to pay for fireworks and the pros who send them skyward. A quality show does not come cheap.
“An inexpensive show is not a show everybody can see,” says Browning, president of Anderson Explodes. “I did research online. Floor shells don’t go any higher than 10 to 20 feet. You can’t really see them unless you are up close.” So he’s going for a big show, a high show, which will come with a high price tag – maybe $50,000.
To gather these funds – as did the Anderson Chamber of Commerce before him, and small groups of citizens going back decades before then – he turns to his community. He can name 20 to 30 people who network with local businesses for donations of gifts for raffles at fundraising dinners. Two of these dinners, one in November and the other in May, can be counted on to draw 350 to 450 diners willing to pay $100 a plate. That comes to about $10,000 per dinner event.
Adding to this are $100 here, $100 there sponsorships now generating about $8,000. “In this town, we have four or five fundraisers going on every weekend,” Browning says. “This community is very giving, and when they see something they like going on, they pitch in.”
What they like with their third of July fireworks show is a live musical performer, which this year will be William Michael Morgan. Shasta District Fairgrounds gates open at 4 pm. The shells launch around 10.
Browning stresses a hard rule for fundraising in a small town. “Do exactly with the money what you tell the people you’re going to do with it.” He promises the more money raised, the more explosions in the sky.
From the beginning, about 35 years ago, founders of the Anderson fireworks show scheduled it on July 3 so as to not conflict with Redding’s show. The Anderson Chamber of Commerce took over organizational duties 20-something years ago, which the chamber executive director recalls became a bit burdensome.
“Every year it just got bigger and bigger,” says Debe Hopkins. “It became on entity unto itself. The board decided it was too big for us four or five years ago.”
The chamber asked Anderson Rotary Club to take over management of the fireworks show. This caught the attention of Rotarians Browning and Norma Comnick, now Anderson’s mayor and Explodes’ treasurer. Together they approached a major business in town that would become the anchor sponsor for the Community for Anderson Explodes and the annual third of July festivities: Sierra Pacific Industries.“They’ve always given us some money,” says Comnick.
“Since we started, our longest-standing sponsor has been Sierra Pacific,” agrees Browning. “They’re a huge part of the Anderson community.”
Judging by the numbers of parked cars and the look of the crowd, organizers estimate the event draws about 15,000 people to Anderson from all over the region, and though there’s no revenue from admission charges, Browning sees the effort to keep the tradition of the show going well worthwhile.
“Even if it’s free, it brings people into town to buy gas, stop at a store or stay at a hotel,” he says. “All these things add up to great benefit for our city. It’s a win, win, win.” •
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