With public's help, fireworks still could light Cape's skies

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The annual Fourth of July fireworks display in Arena Park, which was shelved in February because of a lack of funds, may yet light up the summer sky in 2013.

The Cape Girardeau-based Headquarters chapter of USA Veterans is organizing an effort to fund the display, considered to be the high point of the city's Fourth of July observances.

"As a veteran, it hurt me that a town the size of Cape wasn't going to have fireworks for the Fourth of July," said Rodger Brown, commander of the Headquarters chapter. "I decided to do something about it."

Brown, a veteran of the U.S. Navy and Air Force, said he recently contacted City Hall about renewing the fireworks display. He was referred to Julia Thompson, director of the Parks and Recreation Department.

"I met with Rodger and told him that we would be happy to have fireworks at Arena Park," Thompson said. "I hope that he'll be successful in raising the money needed for a display."

According to Thompson, Brown's group will be responsible for purchasing fireworks and insurance for the display, and the city will waive the fees for police and fire protection and use of the park.

"Because it will only be a fireworks display without a band or other related events, we felt that fees could be waived," Thompson said.

Brown said he has been in contact with a fireworks dealer near Springfield, Mo. The cost of putting on a successful display, including insurance, could run as much as $12,000, he said.

"We hope that the people of Cape Girardeau will see that it's a special holiday," Brown said. "We're also hoping they would consider donating a portion of the money they plan to spend on their own fireworks to the cause."

Brown said the effort to reinstate the fireworks display is a way for regular people to get involved in something meaningful.

"This can be a people's push to get this done," he said. "Without their donations, the event won't happen."

The city of Cape Girardeau had bankrolled the fireworks display until budget concerns ended the city's involvement in 2009. The Trail of Tears chapter of USA Veterans, which Brown used to be a part of, assumed responsibilities for the display after that, but the chapter announced in February it would not be sponsoring a display in 2013 because of finances.

Roger Ziegler, commander of the Trail of Tears chapter, said repair to a building the chapter purchased and operates as a bar and grill on Good Hope Street has depleted money it had earmarked for the fireworks display.

"None of the fireworks money was spent on buying the building," Ziegler said. "We got a bank loan for that. But we discovered that the building had fallen into disrepair, and more money than anticipated was needed to repair it. If not for that, we would've been glad to have put on the fireworks display."

Ziegler said the Headquarters chapter of USA Veterans is unrecognized and separate from the Trail of Tears chapter. Brown, the former commander of the Trail of Tears chapter, formed the Headquarters chapter in January, citing a difference of opinion with Trail of Tears membership. The only USA Veterans chapters are based in Cape Girardeau and Charleston, Mo.

For more information on donating to the Headquarters chapter's fireworks-display fund, call Brown at 587-3932.

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent addresses:

519 Good Hope St., Cape Girardeau, MO

410 Kiwanis Drive, Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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