Tough to Finance Fourth of July Fireworks

FRESNO, Calif.

One celebration floated through the streets of Atwater as high school bands and even Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin cruised past thousands of proud Americans.

Along with the concert and fireworks show at Buhach Colony High School at night, the holiday festivities carry a bill of more than $25,000 - a bill paid without a penny of tax money.

"It's the people of Atwater who continue to support it by monetary funds and by their volunteerism," said the city's mayor Joan Faul. But Atwater's fun is Kingsburg's frustration.

The high school stadium is empty in this Fresno County town. The Chamber of Commerce couldn't raise the $13,000 it needed to pay for fireworks, and because of dwindling attendance, they couldn't count on admission fees making up the difference.

"I totally understand it's something that you've got to cut somewhere, but you know, it's too bad it has to come to that," said Ryan Bergstrom. He's one of many Kingsburg residents who've watched the show nearly every year. Many of them are frustrated they're missing out on the fireworks.

"It's just too bad, you know?" said Jason Garcia. "Every other town's doing it. Somehow they got sponsors and they were able to make it happen."

But a lot of fireworks shows in the Valley are on the brink of extinction. Tulare and Hanford organizers said they were close to canceling theirs this year, and Selma may not have the money to do theirs next year.

Atwater's mayor says even her town's celebration could be in danger. "It's a sad thing and I hope we don't have to end up that way," Joan Faul said. "But you never know. With the economy the way it is, we're in very dire financial straits throughout the Valley.'

But there is hope. Donors saved several celebrations, including the fireworks in Livingston, where an unknown person gave $15,000 to make sure the city marked Independence Day with a bang.

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