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St. Helens fireworks future up in the air

Plans for popular display fizzle this year with lack of volunteers, dollars
by: Courtesy photo

With no funding and few people stepping up to make it happen, it appears the annual St. Helens July fireworks celebration may have fizzled out this year.

St. Helens resident Jenny Hicks is leading an effort to solidify the future of the festivities, but said there are no plans at this time to hold it in 2012. Few volunteers have come forward, she said, and there is no money to cover the estimated $15,000 to $20,000 it takes to run the show. Hicks said she's focusing on 2013 and is not accepting donations for this year.

'It needs an overhaul,' she said. 'I'm not going to take money without a plan.'

Hicks was asked to lead the fireworks planning, a duty she reluctantly accepted considering her limited amount of time to volunteer. She wouldn't share specifics at this time, but Hicks said she is having meetings this week to investigate a potential way to secure a stronger future for the festivities.

'It's a good event, but it needs to be in the right hands,' she said. Hicks said she is too busy to plan the show by herself. 'I'm not the answer, I've figured that out.'

For nearly 40 years, the fireworks show has thrilled residents with extravagant explosive displays over the city's historic waterfront. But in recent years, the popular event has been in danger of being canceled because of funding struggles.

In 2010, the city of St. Helens contributed $5,000 from its tourism budget and an extra $5,000 from its state revenue sharing fund to make the celebration happen. Last year, volunteers pleaded for donations and warned the future of the fireworks display was dim.

The first large-scale fireworks show in St. Helens was in the early 1960s and cost around $2,000. As the event grew and became more elaborate, the costs rose. For several years in the 1980s, St. Helens reportedly boasted one of the largest firework shows in Oregon.

St. Helens City Councilor Keith Locke, who in the past has led the fireworks planning, said the event hasn't been officially canceled this year, but with the lagging economy he is unsure enough money would be able to be raised in time. The city must decide this month whether it's going to happen or not, he said.

'If we don't have it, there will be a lot of disappointed people,' he said.