The night sky over Manzanita on the Fourth of July would have looked much different, had a ragtag group of citizens not stepped up to take over the annual fireworks display.
By Jordan Wolfe
“Us young people need to step up,” said Aprilmarie Eckstrom, owner of Toylandia and Manzanita Sweets, both on Laneda. “We are used to Dave Dillon’s generation stepping up.”
The fireworks were almost lost.
Eckstrom said after Dillon stepped away from coordinating the fireworks show last year, something he had done for nearly two decades, many of the groups who supported his efforts pulled back from the fireworks show as well.
“When Dave [Dillon] told me he was done, I sat on it to see if anyone would pick it up,” Eckstrom said, “I waited three weeks. No one wanted to do it.”
What followed was the formation of the Fireworks Committee, a collaboration between Leroy Heppener, Danielle Johnson, Brian Ruef and Eckstrom. she said.
“If the fireworks don’t happen for one year, I’m worried they will never come back,” she said. “We came together to try to keep it going.”
Eckstrom said even though Dillon has retired from coordinating the fireworks, he has provided a booklet outlining what he did and has been a helpful contact for organizing the Fourth of July fireworks.
“Everyone was just tired,” Kristin Grasseth, administrator assistant for the City of Manzanita, said. “There was no way the city could have taken it over. We support it, but it would be such a large function for us, especially after volunteering our time for the parade.”
Grasseth added the City Council received public input both in favor and against the fireworks and needed to decide whether or not they would continue them.
“This energetic group stepped up,” Grasseth said of the Fireworks Committee. “They pulled it off without a hitch. It was fabulous.”
Garry Bullard, mayor of Manzanita, added, “They did a good job last year. The fireworks are a part of the Fourth of July culture.” He added the real issue the city faces is from illegal fireworks in the neighborhoods, but noted last year the city patrolled the neighborhoods more aggressively than before.
However, even with the support and praise, Eckstrom said they are still in need of manpower and funds to ensure the fireworks can happen seamlessly.
“We’re still looking for volunteers,” she said, “We want as many as we can get and we’re willing to pay this year,” adding a surplus from their estimated $25,000 budget from last year would allow them to pay.
One of the fundraisers, which she said recently launched, is to support the Fireworks Committee by purchasing a shirt or sweatshirt from Toylandia or the Manzanita Farmers Market.
“I think for a lot of people, it’s this small town Mayberry tradition you take for granted,” she said, “Not all small towns have their own fireworks.”