Lake Union fireworks look like no-show
One Reel, the production company that puts on the Family 4th fireworks show, says it could not raise enough money this year and the show won’t go on, though history shows a last-minute rescue still could be possible.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Say it ain’t so, Seattle: No fireworks on Lake Union this Fourth of July?
A day after a self-imposed deadline expired for raising a half-million dollars, organizer One Reel Productions announced that it had commitments for just one-tenth of the money and was pulling the plug on the fireworks extravaganza.
“No April Fool’s joke,” said One Reel spokeswoman Aubrey Bergauer, underscoring expectations that the fireworks display is not going to happen in 2013.
Still, One Reel has come up short of donations in the past, and there were indications Monday that at least City Hall thought the show’s demise wasn’t entirely a done deal.
“It is unfortunate that the event does not appear to be working out this year as it traditionally does at Gas Works Park,” Mayor Mike McGinn said in a statement. “I will be meeting with local business leaders and stakeholders to discuss options.”
Meanwhile, some smaller donors reacted with dismay at the news.
“We can fund big stadiums, but we can’t fund fireworks displays?” asked Chris Gaspard, a resident of Skyway, in South Seattle, who was one of dozens of small contributors who gave money for the show.
“It’s a crime for a city as vibrant as Seattle not to have a 4th of July fireworks show,” said Ed Lazowska, another donor and computer-science professor at the University of Washington, by email. Lazowska, who has been watching the fireworks with his family for 30 years, said he counts the show as one of those events that makes Seattle a great place for families.
One Reel had raised just $50,000 by Sunday, despite a nine-month fundraising effort, Bergauer said. “We’ve tried to be as clear as possible to the community that we’re willing to produce it, at no profit to us, if people are willing to step up and fund it,” she said.
Spokesmen for Microsoft, Starbucks and Amazon all said on Monday that their companies had pledged to help sponsor the fireworks this year, although none of the three would say how much they promised.
Bergauer, of One Reel, said it had a March 31 deadline for fundraising because suppliers needed to know by that date whether there would be a show in Seattle. She said the only way the fireworks can still be saved is if a single company stepped forward to sponsor the entire show.
But no single company has yet offered to do so. “You name the company, we have talked to them,” she said.
It’s not the first time that the March 31 deadline has triggered an announcement by One Reel that there would be no fireworks show.
On April 1, 2010, One Reel announced it was canceling because it couldn’t find a title sponsor. KIRO-FM radio host Dave Ross and restaurateur Tom Douglas launched a radio campaign to save the fireworks. Within one day, pledges totaled $503,000 — more than enough.
A year later, One Reel secured two big sponsors — Microsoft and Starbucks — then continued fundraising until late May, when it announced it had found enough money for the show.
Washington Mutual served as the title sponsor from 2002 until the bank collapsed in 2008. In 2009, New York-based JPMorgan Chase, which bought WaMu’s assets, agreed to sponsor the show.
But “the recession changed all that,” Bergauer said. No one company is interested in paying for the entire event, which draws hundreds of thousands of spectators, and “I don’t know if we’ll ever see that model again.”
The closest city to Seattle with a major fireworks show is Bellevue, which puts on a family Fourth event with sponsorship from Bellevue-based Symetra and help from the city and the Bellevue Downtown Association.
The fireworks are shot from Bellevue Square’s parking garage, and the best views are from Downtown Park, which can handle gatherings of about 65,000 people, said Bellevue Fire Lt. Troy Donlin.
Last month there was speculation that another Seattle summer tradition, the Blue Angels precision flying team, might be canceled due to funding woes — in this case, the federal budget sequester.
But Melissa Jurcan, a spokeswoman for Seafair, said Monday that the Navy has only canceled Blue Angels shows in April. And while it’s “certainly a possibility” that more shows could be canceled, Seafair officials don’t expect that to happen, she said.
To make sure Seattle gets a good air show, Seafair officials have signed a contract with the Patriots Jet Team, a civilian-owned aerobatics team from California.
Staff reporter Lynn Thompson contributed to this report, and information from The Seattle Times’ archives was also included. Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @katherinelong.