Four years after Cape Girardeau officials said they no longer could afford to bankroll the Fourth of July celebration at Arena Park, a group of U.S. veterans that took over the celebration at that time now is saying the same thing.
USA Veterans, a local veterans group, said on Monday it cannot see a way to clear up the financial hardship to pay for the $10,000 fireworks display this year after the group bought the building that formerly housed Ed's Bar and the Pink Squirrel at 519 Good Hope St., said organization commander Roger "Zig" Ziegler.
"We are feeling really bad because we can't present this to the community this year, again," Ziegler said. "We want to do this every year. We think it brings the community closer together. We are very disappointed."
Ziegler said the organization felt strongly about buying the building where the organization originated. The group, Ziegler said, felt it would be a homecoming of sorts considering the group met regularly there when it was a bar. The group was dismayed to learn, Ziegler said, that the building had fallen to severe disrepair and required more money than they anticipated to repair it.
Wiring had to be repaired, he said, along with walls and many other fixtures. The group is struggling to make enough money to have the roof repaired, which Ziegler said is sorely needed. The expenses depleted the money earmarked to pay the balance of last year's Fourth of July event and to serve as seed money for this year's celebration, he said.
Ziegler stressed that none of last year's money was spent on buying the building and the organization had obtained a loan for the purchase. USA Veterans spends about $10,000 on fireworks a year, he said, along with more than $1,000 to rent the park, $1,000 for portable toilets, $5,000 for a demolition derby and almost $3,000 for a sound system. Many of last year's bills have yet to be paid, Ziegler said.
"We're not happy about it," he said. "But we don't know what else to do."
While the change of plans is sure to disappoint many in the community, Convention and Visitors Bureau director Chuck Martin said it won't be a hit as far as revenue being brought in from outside the area.
Most of those who attend are from Cape Girardeau, Martin said, and simply come and watch the fireworks and go home.
"Don't get me wrong: Not that we wouldn't love to see us have the celebration every year," Martin said. "But it won't be taking many dollars away from restaurants and things like that."