One Reel: No fireworks over Lake Union on July 4
There will be no rockets' red glare or bombs bursting in air over Seattle on July 4 this year. One Reel, the Seattle nonprofit that has organized the Family 4th at Lake Union for more than two decades, announced Wednesday that it has not been able to find a title sponsor for the event.
Seattle Times staff reporter
There will be no rockets' red glare, no bombs bursting in air over Seattle on July Fourth.
The year 2010 will be the first in nine decades — aside from a hiatus during World War II — that Seattle won't be treated to an Independence Day fireworks show.
One Reel, the Seattle nonprofit that has organized the Family 4th at Lake Union for more than two decades, announced Wednesday that it has not been able to find a title sponsor for this year's event.
"For that reason, it is with a heavy heart we announce there will be no fireworks or festivities at Gas Works Park this year," One Reel board president Tomoko Matsuno wrote in a letter to the community that was posted on the nonprofit's Web site.
The Lake Union show was the last fireworks show remaining in Seattle after Ivar's Seafood Restaurants announced last year it was canceling its Elliott Bay display after 44 years.
One Reel said that despite intensive efforts over the past 15 months, it has been unable to find any local companies willing to pay the $500,000-plus annual cost to become title sponsor.
"We spoke to just about every Seattle-based company that has a large footprint in the area," said One Reel spokeswoman Mikhael Mei Williams. "In each case, either the company couldn't commit that much, or the show didn't fit its goals."
Update, 12:09 p.m., April 1: On Dave Ross' radio show on KIRO Thursday, restaurateur and chef Tom Douglas pledged $5,000 to keep the fireworks show going and challenged other businesses to do the same.
By noon, nearly $52,000 had been pledged, including $10,000 each from Charlie's Produce and Seattle Bank and $5,000 from Taco Time.
Ross himself donated $1,000.
Williams said she understood the Lake Union show was an event that many Seattleites held dear: "I can only say that it really is a loss."
The Lake Union show began in 1988 when the Fratelli brothers, who had built a successful ice-cream business, wanted to find a way to thank Seattle and approached One Reel.
After Fratelli's Ice Cream, Cellular One became the main sponsor.
Then AT&T took over in 1995.
Washington Mutual became title sponsor in 2002 and continued with the show until 2008 — when the bank collapsed. New York City-based JPMorgan Chase, which bought WaMu's assets, sponsored the show last year but said it wouldn't continue to sponsor it after that.
One Reel said the show has drawn 5 million revelers over the past two decades. Tens of thousands have streamed into Gas Works Park each year to watch the display, which typically ended with a spectacular finale.
Williams said the decision to cancel the show now was made in the face of looming organizational deadlines. She said One Reel remains committed to the event and hopeful that it can be revived in 2011.
One Reel is considering "creative" new sponsorship models for next year, she said.
"Instead of a title sponsor, we could have a couple of presenting sponsors," she said. "That might make it more affordable for Northwest companies."
A spokeswoman for Ivar's said that company doesn't plan to revive its fireworks display, and is instead focusing its philanthropy efforts on feeding the hungry through a partnership with Northwest Harvest.
According to The Seattle Times archives, American Legion Post No. 1 sponsored the city's fireworks display from after World War I until 1963, first at the University of Washington football stadium and later at Green Lake.
Historylink.org says the local Hitt Fireworks Co. was also pivotal in fireworks shows for more than 50 years.
"Beginning in 1918, with a display featuring a 300-foot replica of Flanders Field at the University of Washington football stadium, and ending in 1974, with an aerial production sponsored by Ivar Haglund on Elliott Bay, the company was associated with every major Fourth of July fireworks show in Seattle."
News researcher Gene Balk contributed to this report, which includes material from Seattle Times' archives. Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Seattle Times transportation reporter Mike Lindblom describes some of the factors that may have led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River in Mount Vernon on Thursday, May 23.