City of Tulsa utility customers are being asked to help fund the Tulsa River Parks Authority's annual Fourth of July fireworks show again this year, as donation envelopes have been mailed to customers along with their bills.
As of last week, the fundraising effort was still a little short of its goal, according to Tonja Pitzer, director of community relations for the authority.
"We need about $6,000," she said on June 23, adding that approximately $96,000 had been raised at that point. "It's something we started focusing on July 5, after the close of the show last year. Then, we really start working on it in January and February."
Pitzer said 148,000 of the donation envelopes had been mailed, while a number of local businesses also help sponsor the event.
"Individual donors come to us also, and they're very important and make it more of a community event," she said.
The authority often seeks the public's help in paying for the show. Last year, for instance, the authority still needed another $20,000 in late June to help cover the cost of the show -- called the ONEOK Freedomfest, after the event's lead sponsor -- because the city was unable to send along a planned donation of $25,000. Tulsa utility customers received donation envelopes then, too, and responded with a last-minute flood of cash that allowed the show to go off as scheduled.
"We are always short," Pitzer said of the fundraising effort for the event. "It's always a challenge because it's privately funded."
Last year's fundraising effort might have been a success, but the show was not. A malfunction ended the fireworks display by A&M Pyrotechnics after only 13 minutes, sending tens of thousands of Tulsans home disappointed.
Pitzer said the authority has hired a new fireworks contractor to produce this year's show, Zambelli Fireworks Internationale of Newcastle, Pa. She described the firm as "one of the oldest and largest fireworks companies in the universe."
A repeat of last year's disappointment is not what the authority has in mind this year, she said.
"We are looking for a longer show than last year," Pitzer said, adding that the fireworks presentation typically runs approximately 25 minutes.
The authority was to have paid A&M Pyrotechnics $45,000 for last year's show. But because of the malfunction, the company earned only the $10,000 non-refundable deposit it received from the authority before the show, Pitzer said.
The rest of the budget for last year's show went to cover the costs of entertainment, security and clean up. The event attracts an estimated 80,000 people each year to the banks of the Arkansas River.
Pitzer said any money raised in excess of this year's budget of $102,000 would be saved for next year's show.
Activities will be held for much of the day in conjunction with this year's event at three sites along the river -- the River West Festival Park at 2100 S. Jackson, Veterans Park at 1875 S. Boulder Ave. and Elwood's Café at 1924 S. Riverside Drive. Elwood's will feature live music from noon-11pm, while a picnic kicks things off at Veterans Park at noon with a children's bicycle parade to follow at 7pm.
Food and drink vendors will begin serving at 5pm at the River West Festival Park, while face painting, rock climbing and other activities will be offered. The Red Dirt Rangers will perform from 6:45pm-9:15pm before the fireworks display begins at 9:35pm.
For those who prefer to watch from home, the fireworks show will be broadcast by KTUL Channel 8.
"With the exception of Elwood's, all the seats are free," Pitzer said. "We produce as much entertainment and kids' activities as possible at no charge."
There will be a $5 fee for parking at two sites on the west bank of the river. For more information, visit tulsafreedomfest.com.
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