The same folks who helped rescue Grand Old Day have turned their attention to reviving a fireworks show in St. Paul just in time for Independence Day.
Andy Rodriguez and Ashley LeMay admit they’re facing long odds — they need to raise more than $100,000 in just a few days — but they insist it’s possible.
“The timeline is tight,” said LeMay, who with Rodriguez sparked the push to save Grand Old Day this year after organizers had announced the festival was taking a hiatus. “But it’s doable.”
Rodriguez has set up a GoFundMe page and has had “quiet conversations” with several potential sponsors, he said. He’s hoping to persuade downtown businesses to step forward.
“If the [St. Paul] Saints or someone were to call and say ‘We want to make this happen,’ we would love that,” he said.
Derek Sharrer, Saints executive vice president and general manager, said in an e-mail that team officials support the duo’s efforts “and are happy to be helpful in any way we can.”
He added: “With that said, as we do each year, we’ll be hosting an Independence Celebration fireworks show here at CHS Field following our game on July 3rd.”
For the past few years, the city had partnered with CHS Field to hold July 4th fireworks — first in tandem with Saints games, and then as a city event. But last year, Mayor Melvin Carter announced in a Facebook post that the capital city would not be offering a fireworks show. He said he couldn’t support spending the $100,000 in tax dollars the display was estimated to cost.
When asked Tuesday about the fireworks funding push, Carter said in a statement: “We greatly appreciate community members bringing our neighbors together for family-friendly celebrations.”
City Council Member Rebecca Noecker, who represents the city’s downtown neighborhood, said she had not yet heard from organizers.
“But I always welcome when people step forward to make our city more vibrant,” she said.
So far, the GoFundMe page is running well short of its $125,000 goal. As of Tuesday afternoon, just $145 had been pledged.
Rodriguez, who works for St. Paul Parks and Recreation, said many of the businesses he and LeMay have contacted are in the midst of their fiscal year and say it’s too late to commit funds for this summer. Several are interested in supporting a fireworks show next year, he said.
“All it takes is one big sponsor to step up first and say ‘Yes,’ ” he said. “But a lot of people are hesitant to pull the trigger, given the timeline.”
Given logistics and the time needed to obtain necessary permits, Rodriguez said Friday is the “drop-dead date” on whether they can pull it off.
“Although,” he added, “there is a little wiggle room.”
In late April, officials with the Grand Avenue Business Association announced they were discontinuing Grand Old Day after 45 years, saying expenses had outstripped festival revenue. Within hours of the announcement, LeMay, whose family owns Tavern on Grand, and Rodriguez were on social media rallying support for “Grand Old Day Anyway,” a pub crawl to entice people to Grand Avenue in place of the festival.
That effort helped persuade business owners to save Grand Old Day. Businesses and sponsors stepped up and, a little more than a week after the announcement of its demise, Grand Old Day was back on.
LeMay said she hopes St. Paul’s fireworks show can be revived as well.
“Events like this are a positive for St. Paul,” she said. “It just comes down to what are the fireworks worth to you? Is it worth $5? If enough people respond with $5, we can for sure do this.”