SIKESTON -- Community support -- not tax dollars -- are the bucks behind Sikeston's Fourth of July celebration bangs.
For nearly 20 years, Sikeston Elks Lodge 2319 members have kept up the tradition of putting on one of the biggest Independence Day fireworks shows in Southeast Missouri.
And for many years, the Elks were willing and able to pay for the fireworks by themselves.
By 2003, however, the cost to provide the fireworks show area residents have come to expect had risen to around $8,000.
"The cost kept going up and going up. It got to the point about three years ago where we couldn't afford it anymore," recalled Gary Howard, fund-raiser chairman for the Sikeston Elks Lodge Fire Works Committee. "I came up with the idea to have the community help us out. If the community comes up with about half of it, it's not so bad. ... We've got to have the community support on this project."
Wayne Smith, exalted ruler of the Sikeston Elks, said donations this year are again off to a slow start, "but we have a little time yet so we're hoping for the best."
Donations for the 2005 Fourth of July Celebration fireworks display also lagged at first but picked up after some encouragement from Mike Jensen's editorial in the Standard Democrat.
"Last year's was wonderful -- we had a really good donation year. Hopefully we can do as good this year as we did last year," Smith said. "We just appreciate the support we've had in the past. Hopefully everybody will support us again for this ongoing thing."
Mike Gadberry, who is in charge of making arrangements for the fireworks display, said the weather was also a concern up until the last minutes for last year's celebration.
"We were really lucky," Gadberry said. "We had just gotten the display set up and covered right before the rain. It rained and sprinkled on and off until about 30 minutes before the show was to start and then it cleared off and was just great."
The Elks have again hired Cosmic Inc., Wisdom Sales Company of Poplar Bluff, a company with the experience and equipment to safely put on a top-notch fireworks show, according to Gadberry. Since May 24, 2003, even the purchase of professional-grade fireworks has required a permit from the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
This year's pyrotechnic display for Sikeston will again feature several 8, 10 and 12-inch shells in addition to plenty of 2, 4 and 6-inch mortars. "It'll be pretty much the same show as last year as far as quantity and size," Gadberry said.
"It's going to be as good, if not better, than ever," Smith said. "We invite everybody to come out and watch. The lodge enjoys doing it for the city."
Donations toward the 2006 Fourth of July Celebration can be sent to the Sikeston Elks Lodge Fire Works Committee, P.O. Box 931, Sikeston, MO 63801.