They helped save one St. Paul summer tradition, and Ashley LeMay and Andy Rodriguez hope to bring a second celebration back to life.
LeMay and Rodriguez, who helped keep St. Paul’s Grand Old Day festival afloat this year, now want to resuscitate Independence Day fireworks. Friends since they were students at a St. Paul junior high, they came up with the idea that led to a scaled down Grand Old Day after sponsors had canceled the 40-plus-year annual event.
This time, the pair acknowledge that they have an even more difficult challenge. They’re looking to raise between $100,000 and $125,000 for a professional fireworks display, with related insurance and security costs. The traditional downtown display was canceled for 2018 because sponsors pulled out and Mayor Melvin Carter said the city would not replace private funds with taxpayer dollars.
LeMay, whose family owns Tavern on Grand, and Rodriguez, who works for St. Paul Parks and Recreation, deserve credit. When civic-minded people come together to support an uplifting cause, it can help counter today’s often divisive political atmosphere.
LeMay said they are speaking with potential donors and, as of Thursday afternoon, had the potential to raise $10,000 toward their goal. Though they had said earlier that Friday was the “drop dead” deadline for contributions, she added that there was wiggle room to decide through the weekend.
“The timeline is tight,” she said. “But the city has indicated that it will help us get the permits we need if we find the sponsors. It’s doable.’’
Rodriguez set up a GoFundMe page to get citizens involved. But as of Thursday afternoon only $480 had been raised. Larger donations from businesses, foundations or wealthy community members could help close the gap. Or thousands of small donations, or some combination of both.
Whether LeMay and Rodriguez make their goal or not, their efforts are appreciated. And they’ve got a head start on bringing back St. Paul’s July 4th fireworks in 2020 if not this year.