December 12, 2018
Updated June 1 at 4:20 p.m.

Country club hoping to save West Branch fireworks

Posted

WEST BRANCH — If enough money can be raised before the Fourth of July, the annual West Branch fireworks display may live on, albeit at a new location. 

West Branch Area Chamber of Commerce board member and General Manager of West Branch Country Club Tom Hornbacher said he decided to take over the efforts after hearing feedback from a story in the Herald a couple of weeks ago that they might not continue. 

“We’ve had fireworks in this town for a long time, and it was somewhat sad to see it go,” Hornbacher told the Herald. “I thought we have a perfect venue for it if I could get the funding.”

Hornbacher has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the $15,000 necessary for the display this year. As of the writing of this article, only $30 had been donated with the page created May 29. But Hornbacher said if people are willing to donate the money, the fireworks will find a new home at the country club. 

“I think I have it organized,” he said. “This was really important to the community is what we heard from feedback after the article (that ran in the Herald). If it really is that important, I can provide the location. Let’s see if we can put together a community effort and raise the funds needed. If we do, it’s important to everybody. If not, it’s not as important as we thought.”

The location of the fireworks would be pending approval of the West Branch fire chief, according to the GoFundMe page. If enough funds are not raised before this year’s show and the show is canceled, any money raised this year will be put toward a show in 2019. 

In addition to donating through GoFundMe, people can also drop a donation off at the West Branch Chamber of Commerce or mail it to the chamber at 422 W. Houghton Ave. 

The Herald reported two weeks ago that the chamber had decided it would no longer be in charge of the fireworks as it had been since the fireworks committee disbanded before last year’s show. Chamber Secretary Cynthia Scott and Treasurer Michelle Frechette said at the time that they were looking for an individual or group to take over the display so it didn’t have to be canceled. 

Money that had been raised over the past year — there is a little more than $1,000 in the account currently — will also go toward this year’s show.  

After money was raised for last year’s show, the location was met with resistance when City Manager Heather Grace challenged it due to a chemical from fireworks called perchlorate being found in groundwater in other areas where fireworks had been shot off. However, the decision was made to hold the fireworks at the same location along M-30. 

The West Branch fireworks have been held each year since 2014. They were canceled in 2013 because not enough money had been raised. After the cancellation, a group of area residents banded together to form a fireworks committee and fundraise for the display each year. However, that committee has since broken up. Last year chamber Director Heather Neuhaus ran with it in hopes of finding people to help and keep it going, but that never materialized. 

Chamber members said they have been trying to find someone to take over the fireworks for the past year. 

Members of the board reportedly do not feel the chamber should be involved in the fireworks because they don’t fall within the chamber’s mission statement.

The GoFundMe page can be found by clicking here. 

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