Coon Rapids orders July 4th fireworks for its big party

  • Article by: MARIA ELENA BACA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 17, 2009 - 11:46 PM

But no one's sure how the bill will be paid after the Lions Club -- the usual sponsor -- reported dismal gambling receipts.

The city of Coon Rapids and the local Lions Club hope that the bright side of the group's dismal charitable gambling revenues is that the annual Coon Rapids Fourth of July Celebration - this year marking the city's 50th anniversary - will become a truly community endeavor.

The Coon Rapids Lions have bankrolled the July 4th fireworks display and parade for many years. The group's pulltab and bingo revenue also helped support charities geared toward improving vision and hearing, as well as a litany of other causes, including work for children, the needy, the sick and the disabled. Six years ago, the group had about $395,000 available for those causes.

Last year, however, said Lions president Liz Reiser, the organization had less than $105,000 to spread among all its causes; this year, that figure will add up to less than $75,000. The usual $25,000 allocation for fireworks feels much more onerous now.

"We're trying to keep up with the real basic things we're most known for, like eye exams and glasses, and hearing exams and hearing aids," she said. "Now it's not even a question of priorities because we don't have money for any of it. Our priority is for needs of the community ahead of things like fireworks."

Some people blame the statewide smoking ban for slowdowns in charitable gambling. Reiser also points to people's anxieties about the sluggish economy. And recently, competition for limited gambling dollars was increased as the Lions' pulltab sites were reduced from three to one, plus a part-time bingo post.

While the Lions' beneficiaries are broad-based, the other three groups licensed for charitable gambling in the city are more narrowly focused: Mat Bandits (youth wrestling), Little League and the Coon Rapids Youth Hockey Association.

"It would be nice to see those other organizations that benefit from charitable gambling step up and contribute something," Reiser said. "I don't know if they will."

Comparing the need for a stunning fireworks display to basic needs isn't really productive, but City Manager Matt Fulton thinks that the event is vital to the city's health.

"This event is important to helping this community feel good," he said. "You want people to say they've got the coolest Fourth of July celebration. That's an attraction for the community."

Despite the uncertainty around funding, the City Council and staff have given the go-ahead to make a $20,000 fireworks order, in the hope that a sponsor, or a group of sponsors will step up. The bill will not be paid with city dollars, Fulton said.

The Lions have announced that part of the proceeds of a 50th anniversary golf tournament and banquet, scheduled for June 7 and 9, respectively, will go to help support the fireworks. The ratio of revenue to fireworks and other causes depends on how much money the Lions are able to raise. The group is hoping to attract donors for sponsorships and naming rights, as well as general donations.

"Every day there's more bad economic news, but we are really trying to stay positive about it," Reiser said. "People in the city of Coon Rapids have always been very generous, and we're hoping that continues. We're hoping that even if we don't make as much money as we hope to make, we'll make enough to make it worthwhile."

Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409


    The Lions are accepting donations for the fireworks display at: Coon Rapids Lions Club, P. O. Box 48176, Coon Rapids, MN 55448-0176.

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