After more than 100 years of having no Fourth of July celebration in Sunnyside — the Sunnyside Lions in 1995 decided to hold a celebration in the park — just a few games and a couple of eating contests and sack races. Plus, a few speakers, from patriotic to military hometown heroes.
A few years later, the old-fashioned hometown party featured a fireworks display — all funded through private and public donations. The service group was able to arrange for an Air Force fly over, and the festivities grew to include a parade with tractors, floats and color guards.
Throughout the years, the city of Sunnyside had been the Lions’ main financial supporter, contributing upwards of $5,000 each year. Sometimes, even local banking institutes and hospitals have donated to the show.
There have been a couple of “not in the party mood” years in which the Lions were unable to host the fireworks — due in part to city budget shortfalls and coupled with an inability to raise the necessary $6,000 to $7,000 from the community to stage an entertaining show.
Sadly, there was one time when the pyrotechnic company, which was contracted by the Lions, made off with the fireworks at the last minute.
Discouraged and disappointed, the group never gave up.
They raised money from yard sales, aluminum recycling drives, raffle ticket sales for the “donate to detonate” campaign and even putting out donation jars at area businesses. The event has always been free to the public, but donations at the gate have always been accepted.
This year, the fate of the fireworks program appeared to be in danger of not happening once again — as a result of a lack of funds and perhaps even more concerning, the waning of community interest.
This year, the Lions raised about $1,850. The city earmarked $3,000 for the fireworks. Senior staff found a way to provide an additional $2,000 for a total of a $5,000 contribution.
The gates to Sunnyside High School’s Clem Senn Stadium will open at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday night for its 20th fireworks program, complete with games, eating contests, a 21-gun salute by local veterans, state politician and guest speaker Rep. Jeremie Dufault (R-Selah) and an assortment of vendors.
On this July 4 evening as the Miss Sunnyside court and candidates hand out U.S. flags to all who attend, make a donation for next year’s show, which proudly displays our community’s celebratory ‘Bombs Bursting in Air’ colors for all to admire in awe.