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2020 July 4 may not be Star-Spangled

By Sarah Brown

Lebanon Local

Acting City Manager Ron Whitlach told the Lebanon City Council Wednesday evening that the Lebanon Community Foundation will no longer run the annual Fourth of July celebration.

“Basically, it comes down to cost and lack of volunteers,” Whitlach said. “They were doing it as a fundraiser. Cost was about $25,000 and they were only making about $2,000.

“Somebody asked, ‘Does the city want to take that on?’ and I said, ‘No, I don’t think we can take that on.’”

Whitlach said putting on the annual event, which includes performances, games and an elaborate fireworks show would be “a tall order at that kind of money.”

LeAnn Kennedy, an LCF board member, said the decision isn’t about money, but more about time and commitment.

“It felt like we didn’t have the manpower at this time to be able to put it together,” she said. “We certainly want another community entity to take that over, and we fully believe in and support the event.”

Jolene Watson, board president, said it takes about 500 man-hours to put the event on every year, and it’s just more than the board can take on. But there’s more to it than that.

The LCF is a nonprofit that was formed to enable the Strawberry Festival board to acquire Cheadle Lake park for its annual event. After some years of hosting the festival at Cheadle, board members of the foundation started garnering support to put on the Fourth of July event.

“My idea was an old-fashioned, family-oriented Fourth of July celebration where people could spend most of the day there, and the kids would have games to play and things to do,” said Warren Beeson, who was on the board at the time and was instrumental in starting the Star Spangled Celebration.

The first Star Spangled Celebration was held in 2004.

The Lebanon Community Foundation managed and maintained the park and a couple of its events for several years, but ownership of the park was transferred to the city in 2017.

“We knew eventually we would be giving the park to the city because that was always in the plan,” Watson said. “Everyone’s put their heart and soul into the park, and now it’s kind of like it’s a city park.”

Now board members are looking at LCF and trying to perhaps redefine what the foundation is, they said.

“We are having some meetings and discussions about what we are, who we are, what our goals are for the future and what that looks like,” Kennedy said.

“We’re kind of looking at ourselves going ‘We’re the Lebanon Community Foundation,’ so we’re not all about the park, but that’s where we’ve put all our time, energy and money for the last decades,’ so we’re looking at it and moving on,” Watson said.

“It’s really important to us to be part of the community, and not spending so much time and so much money and effort in the park allows us to find other projects to do around the community.”

The cost to put on the Star Spangled Celebration was covered by sponsorships from the City of Lebanon and numerous local businesses. Money raised at the gate from entrance fees were deposited into the park fund for maintenance of the property.

Other organizations are welcome to step in and take over or start their own Fourth of July celebration for the community, Watson said. The hard part is having the relationships in the community to get financial support for the high cost of such an event, and having the volunteer base to put it all together, she said.

“The volunteerism in Lebanon is phenomenal,” she said. “I’m sure there’s other groups that could do it.”

Sean C. Morgan contributed to this story