Elks fireworks show lacking public funding
SIKESTON - While the war in Iraq is winding down, the need for Americans to gather together to show their support and patriotism continues.
"We feel it is extremely important to continue the tradition of the Fourth of July Celebration as part of that support," said Wayne Smith, exalted ruler-president of the Sikeston Elks Lodge 2319.
Sikeston's fireworks show is well known in this area, but most people don't know that it isn't taxpayer money that funds the show.
"A lot of people think the City of Sikeston pays for that - a lot of people don't know the Elks do it," said Smith. He estimated the Elks have done the fireworks in Sikeston for at least the last 15 years.
Smith said not only is the show enjoyed by Sikeston residents, but it is a nice draw for the city. "People come from 50-75 mile radius come to watch them - I think we have the biggest show in the surrounding area," said Smith. "We've got some bigger stuff than usual planned for this year - more powerful, supposed to look better."
The Elks don't want to take all the credit, however. In the past, various businesses and organizations have helped in the expense of the fireworks, for which the Elks are grateful. Donations used to cover about half of the fireworks' cost, Smith said.
Unfortunately, over the last few years that support has diminished. "Last year we had pretty much the whole expense," said Smith. "It was right around $8,000."
Like everything else, the cost of the fireworks show has increased and the Elks are finding it increasingly difficult to cover these costs. One of the increases was hiring a professional to set them off. "We've done that for the last three or four year," said Smith. "A few years ago we had a bad experience - there were people jumping in the lake and everything, so I think it's money well spent."
This year the Elks have decided to seek donations from "businesses, individuals - anybody who wants to," Smith said. "It would really be appreciated. I know everybody likes to see them, so we're going to have to have a little help. We are asking for help in supporting this event for the community so we may continue it this year and in years to follow. We'd sure like to continue doing this, and we plan on it."
Donations toward the Independence Day fireworks show may be made to Sikeston Elks Lodge Fire Works Committee, PO Box 931, Sikeston, MO 63801.
The Sikeston Elks Lodge has been a part of the community since 1965, supporting many community activities over the years in addition to the fireworks shows, added Smith.