Donors save Seattle's Fourth of July fireworks
The July Fourth fireworks show over Lake Union will go on after a grass-roots radio campaign to save it reached its $500,000 goal Friday morning.
Seattle Times staff reporters
In less than 24 hours, Starbucks, Microsoft, Nordstrom, Vulcan, small businesses and individuals raised $500,000, ensuring this year's July Fourth celebration at Gas Works Park will go on as planned.
That feat prompted Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn to proclaim Friday as "The Day the People Saved the Fireworks."
The grass-roots campaign started earlier in the week after One Reel, the nonprofit that has run the fireworks show for more than two decades, announced it could not find a title sponsor and was canceling the event this year.
On Thursday morning, 97.3 KIRO-FM radio host Dave Ross, along with restaurateur and One Reel board member Tom Douglas, began what they say was an impromptu on-air campaign to save the fireworks show. Seattle has had an Independence Day fireworks show every year for nine decades, aside from a hiatus during World War II.
By Friday morning, with more than $485,000 raised from corporations, smaller businesses and individuals, Bill Pettit, president of Merrill Gardens, decided the Seattle-based senior-housing company would pledge whatever was still needed to bring the campaign to the $500,000 finish line.
"I have a hard time picturing Seattle dark over the Fourth of July, with no fireworks," said Pettit, who lives on Lake Union.
Merrill Gardens has 22 senior-housing communities in Washington state, including four in Seattle.
"We're still fortunate enough to have a lot of veterans and spouses of veterans" living in Merrill Gardens facilities, Pettit said. "For us, this holiday in particular is a very meaningful holiday. It gives us a time, regardless of our political affiliation, to stand as one."
The radio campaign kicked off Thursday morning when Douglas pledged $5,000 and challenged other small-business owners to kick in money. Ross pledged $1,000.
By 5 p.m. Thursday, KIRO said business owners had pledged $79,000. Then Starbucks and Microsoft said they would match all donations up to a combined maximum of $250,000.
By 9 p.m. Thursday, less than $68,000 was needed to save the event. The show of community support prompted One Reel to post on its Web site later Friday a thank-you letter from Tomoko Matsuno, president of its board of directors.
"Simply put, we couldn't imagine our summer without this July 4th tradition, and we're so happy to know that you feel the same way," Matsuno's letter stated. "We are inspired by your energy, grateful for your generosity, and dedicated more than ever to presenting you with the best Independence Day celebration you have ever had. You deserve it."
Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or firstname.lastname@example.orgFor a list of donors to the campaign to save the July 4 fireworks show:
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