Friday, June 27, 2014

Mount Shasta 4th Of July Community Fireworks Fund

I lived in the Mt. Shasta area, and neighboring towns at various times in my life since 1977.  Before I went there, I had a vivid dream about a woman and a mountain. The next day I was invited to lunch at a friend's place and an Israeli kibutznik was there. After a few hours conversation, he mentioned he was thinking of going up to Mt. Shasta, because there was a woman who wrote an esoteric book, and he wanted to meet her. (This is a whole other story though)
I immediately offered to pay for the entire trip, if we left the very next day! He agreed!  Thus began my love affair with that area. The pristine evergreen forests, interspersed with Aspens that turned gold in the fall, wild blackberries covered in raindrops, wild sweet pea flowers blooming in all their pink splendor. I left West Hollywood the next year, with what would fit in my car, moved there, and never looked back.

Every year that I lived there, there was an annual fireworks display by Lake Siskiyou in the town of Mt. Shasta. It was the one time that friends, family and tourists would converge upon the town in vast numbers. Even more folks that any other time at once, even Christmas! I don't know where most people watched, but the people I knew at the time, would park at Lake Siskiyou and we would have to tramp through the shrubs and trees to get a good vantage point. Then we would stumble home in the dark; not so fun through the brush.  There were a few campgrounds that everyone else watched from.  There was a resort, the Mt. Shasta Resort later a few years after I moved there, and they had good views from their restaurant and deck, but only if you were a guest or having dinner at the restaurant.



click to enlarge

The whole 4th of  July celebration was a 3 day affair, ending in the Annual Fireworks display. It was fun because there were always so many vendors and food stalls downtown, live music, local art, and bric a brac and to buy. My friends and I would get together and party down (I was in my 20's). It was a tradition that the town had for over 50 years at that time. It was looked forward to, and planned many months in advance. The 4th of July would start with a parade in town, with live music afterwards, then in the early 80's Dr. Jim Parker started a "Small Town Run - Walk".  It became so big, it could no longer be called small, in fact it is now the largest small town run in the country. They still have it on going to this day.


Well anyway, I was sitting at my dining room table in 1997 and I saw an article about not having any more annual fireworks because it was too hard to raise the funds for it. Wow, I couldn't imagine the kickoff for summer without the fireworks, nor could most of my friends. I called the number in the paper and thereafter became the new fund raiser along with a local businessman, John Kennedy and initially Nancy la Mott. John and I made up the perfect partnership. He knew everyone in town, and I knew how to promote events and work with the media, do the photography, and media flyers. We only had a meeting when we both had something that needed to be done. Otherwise I would just call him if a sponsor needed some media exposure and he would show up for the Newspaper photo ops. He drafted letters to corporate sponsors, something I am lousy at. We just made things happen, working with him was a dream.
The Fund O Meter we used each year to
let folks in town know how we were
doing with funds for the fireworks.
John and I looked at each other and put our thinking caps on. We came up with donations boxes which John designed and made. I made the art that went on them and we put them all around town. One day a girlfriend of mine, Kathy Ahearn was listening to me groan about how slow the donations were coming in, and she suggested a thermometer of sorts, a giant one placed where everyone in town could see how we were doing with funding and whether or not there would be fireworks that year. I gave the idea to John and he ran with it! As the donations went up, the empty space would be filled with red. We placed it in one of the most strategic places, where you just couldn't miss it. It seemed to do the trick a got a lot of attention. It was also a good spot to take photo ops for the various donors and sponsors as well. We used it for the 3 or 4 years that we were in charge of getting donations.


Mt. Shasta had an old steam engine #25, that had recently been put back online we enlisted them to take tourists for rides. The train became a nice fundraiser and a fun family event. One year I enlisted the Mt. Shasta Police chief and his deputies. They would set up a robbery somewhere along the route at the base of Mout Shasta. When old #25 steam engine (which made it's last run in Nov. 2008) hit the mark, these masked bandits on horses would stage a blockage with old barrels and rifles poised in the air (unloaded of course). They would then "force" the conductor to stop so they could board. They would then extract more money from the passengers for the Annual Fireworks display!
Steam Engine #25 - Photo by Michael F. Allen at http://railpictures.net
I designed and printed up gobs of large WANTED posters with the masked faces of the "Banditos" and posted them everywhere I could in town.  It was the Chief of Police and his deputies posing for me in full cowboy outfits, and on the poster. Of course, you aren't allowed to nail posters to city poles or walls, but because it was the Chief's mug on it, no one ever took them down. I guess they figured it was for a good and mutual cause. It was a popular ride, except when the unpredictable weather would turn cold and it would rain or snow.

I wish the hard drive I had years of photos on hadn't crashed. It took with it many wonderful memories. It was a lot of work and also a lot of fun.

One of the innovations we initiated in 1999, was holding the viewing spot at the golf resort, The Mt. Shasta Resort. I approached the owners and they agreed. It was one of the best spots to view the fireworks from high on a hill overlooking Lake Siskiyou. We then decided, we would charge $1.00 to use the greens. The event had been free for over 35 years, so many people resented it, and I got a lot of F you's from people when we asked for the 1.00!! But how else were we supposed to get funding for this event? Every year it was such a struggle to get the businesses in town to foot it. I figured, the townsfolk wanted to see the Fireworks, so why should we not make each person a part of the funding?

Jon Thomas, one of my all time favorite jewelers in Mt. Shasta. Always very generous.
For the major sponsors, I asked if we could rope off the private parking at the resort, everyone else had to park anywhere they could, and it was quite a hike up those hills. It became a coveted thing to have, one of those spaces right there by the event.

I haven't been around since 2002, but I notice that the Mt. Shasta Resort is still allowing the public on their greens. I don't know if they still charge, but they should. We made a lot of money from the 3 or 4 thousand attendees, it really took a load off of us for the next year. We often had a little under half of the next year's fireworks funding from each 4th of July.

We got a lot of help and support as well as exposure from the Mt. Shasta Chamber of Commerce and the only newspaper, the Mt. Shasta Herald would send a photographer and reporter out to promote the events and feature our sponsors any time we called them. But even with all of that, the one event that took us over the edge for the next year, was charging that 1.00 entrance fee to watch from the resort-golf club.
It was the first time the history of the Community Fireworks fund that the funds were raised ahead of schedule. Congressman Herger presenting Mayor Gibson with an American flag flown over the capitol.  Click to enlarge. L to R: Diana Limjoco Pollard, Congressman Wally Herger, Mt. Shasta City Mayor Audra Gibson. 
It seems to be forgotten now how the fireworks display started, but I have a vague memory that it started in 1948 as a part of a fund raiser for the park. It then became a tradition and when I picked up the funding, it was 50 years old. The new website for the Community Fireworks Fund says over 35 years, but by my estimation it is now 66 years old! Many of the old timers have passed away, and much of the history of the traditions has faded with them.

One of the more memorable moments was when an aide called from Congressman Wally Herger's office, saying that one of the senior High School graduate students, a Ryan Curtis, had written a letter to the Congressman asking for support. I immediately saw it as a good opportunity to highlight the efforts of the young man and perhaps inspire others his age to care about the community as much. I arranged for Cong. Herger to come up for a photo op. I called a local caterer and got some canapés donated, after which I called our Mayor, Audra Gibson, a personal friend, and told her she was sponsoring the Congressman at her house, after which we would proceed to nearby Shastice park. We gathered the many of the major fund raisers, two supervisors, Bill Hoy and Lavada Erickson for a photo op.  Congressman Herger gave us a good donation, and presented a flag to Mayor Gibson to fly over city hall, with a certificate that it had been flown over the nation's capitol
Circled is Mt. Shasta High School graduate Ryan Curtis, who was responsible for getting Congressman Wally Herger to come up to Mt. Shasta in support of our fireworks fund. He praised Ryan for his effort to help the community by writing him a letter. That's me holding the right corner of the banner, and Congressman Herger in the center front in the dark shirt in back of the banner.
Click to enlarge.
The last year I helped the fireworks fund in 2000, I thought it would be a good idea to put it on the local Mt. Shasta TV station, Channel 15. It showed in every hotel room and had a lot of local subscribers. At that time it was just a blue screen with text typed in by the city clerk, mainly alerting people to any disasters and parking information in the winter.  I approached the Mt. Shasta City Council to see if we could put up our information there, they agreed, but I had to be the one to type in the information.  The City Clerk taught me how and I would type in updates about the funding.

I then asked them why we don't actually have shows on Channel 15, wanting to air some of the video footage of the fireworks. The City Administrator took me to the community center, unlocked a closet, stepped over folding chairs and showed me a funky tube TV on a stand with a VCR underneath it on one of those cheap portable rolling TV stands. No much public access there, the one key unlocked the entire Community Center! But now I am getting into another story, of how I founded MCTV-Channel 15!

Since this seemed like a more far reaching venue, I quit the Fireworks Fund and at the behest of the Mt. Shasta City council, I embarked on my new adventure. Learning all about public Television.

There you have it, a little bit of trivia. Next Chapter, how I started MCTV-Channel 15.   The station now airs in Mt. Shasta, Yreka, McCloud, Weed and Dunsmuir.  It has since become Siskiyou Media Council.

President Tom Moore, of the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce giving me a plaque of Appreciation for my 3 years as Mt. Shasta Community Fireworks Fund.



L to R: Diana Limjoco Pollard, Congressman Wally Herger, Ryan Curtis, Mt. Shasta City Mayor
Audra Gibson - 1998 at Shastice Part, Mt. Shasta City.

Congressman Wally Herger came to Mt. Shasta in support of the Mt. Shasta Community
Fireworks Display Fund, at the request of newly graduate student Ryan Curtis of Mt. Shasta
High School. We wanted to make Ryan and example to his peers for his outstanding
community appreciation and support.

Always a great turn out. When I got there in the late 1970's, the parade wasn't that thrilling. I always screamed with delight an clapped though, just to give the participants a little gratification!
2002 - 4th July Parade -downtown Mt. Shasta, City





No comments:

Blog of Diana J. Limjoco of the Clan Limjoco