Fourth of July celebration on the chopping block again

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

It was announced at the Parks, Trees and Trails Advisory Committee on March 15 that the Fourth of July Star Spangled Celebration is not going to happen this year (and future years) unless an organization is willing to take it on.

Strawberry Festival Chairperson Cindy Kerby said the Festival board decided to trim the Star Spangled Celebration from their tree because it runs too close to their June event and they don’t have the manpower to invest into the Celebration.

Kerby, who is also a new committee member of Parks, Trees and Trails, said the Festival board approached the City of Lebanon to see if it or another entity would be interested in taking it on. There was some discussion about doing some type of timber carnival in conjunction with the Fourth of July event, she said, but ultimately there is no one at this point who will take it over.

“It is something that is going to go away unless somebody takes it on,” Kerby said.

The Star Spangled Celebration began in 2004 and was hosted by the Lebanon Community Foundation until 2019, at which point the organization announced it would no longer put on the event due to a variety of contributing factors, including lack of available volunteers. The Lebanon Strawberry Festival Board stepped in to rescue the event, but COVID curtailed the festivities to just a fireworks show over the lake that people could watch from home or a side street.

“We’ve done the fireworks for a couple years just to have fireworks for Lebanon,” Kerby said. “It was something the community really wanted, so we just did it.”

The cost to shoot the fireworks has been about $15,000 for the Festival. The Lebanon Community Foundation put in about $25,000 a year for both the fireworks and festivities at Cheadle Lake Park. Kerby said that Entek and Weyerhaeuser have been sponsors of the event.

Kerby also noted that since COVID, the fireworks company has limited the number of shows they do. The Festival was able to reserve a date with them for this year if somebody steps in to host the event. Committee Member Dave Workman asked about a timeline, since July is fast approaching.

“Because I’ve worked with them and I supported them through COVID – as Strawberry Festival we continued to do the fireworks and a lot of places didn’t – they are very willing to work with us and do whatever we need for Lebanon,” she said. “They really want to be a part of that, so we have some time, but we have to at least give them a couple months to make sure they have everything they need.”

Technically all that’s really needed is an organization to arrange the funding through regular sponsors for fireworks over the lake, but there’s no time this year to organize the traditional festivities and gathering originally created by Lebanon Community Foundation, Kerby said. There are a couple other needs, including communication with the fireworks department to close street and trail routes for safety that day, and a handful of volunteers (which she believes she could round up).

“It’s one of those things were we get a lot of letters from the community saying they really enjoyed the fireworks,” Kerby said.

Workman said he’d hate to see the fireworks show end, but he will reach out to some business owners to see if they’d be interested.

“I can guarantee you that if it goes, it will not come back,” she said.

In other business:

♦ The committee welcomed Cindy Kerby to the committee;

♦ The committee agreed to recommend to City Council that Linda Ziedrich and Anna Creel be seated on the committee as a tree enthusiast and park enthusiast, respectively;

♦ Nancy Brewer announced Lebanon was recognized for its 21st year in a row as a Tree City USA.

“It really represents the work we do to maintain and manage trees in the right-of-ways, trees in parks and natural areas around town,” she said.

Brewer added it’s important to have continued recognition for the city’s work to maintain its natural environment.

“It’s an important step to show that the community’s interested and doing the right things,” Rick Barnett said;

♦ Rod Sell shared an update from Build Lebanon Trails.