A Fourth of July without fireworks is like Christmas without Santa Claus to Greg Cottrell. So when he heard last year that there would be no fireworks show, he knew he had to do something about that.
He started asking city officials questions to find out what would be needed to have the show anyway. That led him to Adam Natwick and Devin Bauste. Natwick owns a fireworks stand, and he and his friend Bauste were already working on a free fireworks show.
Their show wasn’t held at the Upper Missouri Valley Fairgrounds, but this year’s show by the trio will be. The location is part of an agreement they have with the Williston Convention Visitors Bureau to put on a fireworks show that is bigger and better than the one they were able to throw together last year at the last minute.
The trio are determined to save the Fourth of July in Williston, Cottrell said, and they are out raising money to that end. They want to raise at least $10,000, and preferably more like $15,000, to match a $10,000 donation the CVB gave them to put on a 2018 Fourth of July show for Williston.
Cottrell has been out knocking on doors all this week, and said he already has six $1,000 donors, and several others at the level of $500 and $250.
Donations are being handled through the CVB, Cottrell said, to ensure everything is tracked and that proper recognition is given. Major donors will be displayed on a banner at the Fairgrounds.
To contribute to the effort, contact Cottrell at 814-460-7991. The group also has a Facebook page, Save the 4th of July in Williston ND.
This year’s show will be 21 minutes, with 20 minutes of music, Natwick said, and it will be a much bigger show than what the trio put on last year.
Cottrell said if extra funds are raised above and beyond what is needed to match the CVB, they will all go into making the show better.
“The Fairgrounds will be a lot better venue for this,” Natwick said. “Last year we literally just blocked off the street and said here, we are doing it.”
Natwick’s retail stand was in that general vicinity, so he was able to work things out with the landowners to light the fireworks there. The fire department helped douse the area with water as well, to ensure safety.
They started putting that show together on July 2.
“It was ultra-last minute,” he said, “but we were able to do it. It came together nicely.”
Natwick started his stand four years ago because he loves fireworks. During the boom, however, prices seemed to skyrocket, he said, so he was looking for a way to obtain them more cheaply. He sources his fireworks direct from China. Cutting out the middle man saves a considerable amount of money, so that he can offer affordable fireworks at his stand.
With the downturn, Natwick had noticed that many of his repeat customers could not afford fireworks the way they had in the past. When he heard the city was cancelling its show, he decided he would pull about $40,000 in consumer-grade fireworks off his own shelves to put on a free show for the community.
Natwick and Bauste also drove across the state to pick up some of the larger type fireworks as well, to make the show a little better.
“The Fourth is usually our busiest day,” Natwick added. “We do about 60 percent of our business on the third and the fourth, and 80 percent of that 60 is on the Fourth.”
That made putting together a fireworks show a little extra challenging, Natwick said, but he’s glad he did it.
“It wasn’t the boom any more, and we had a lot of families who could only do $50 or so in fireworks, so it felt good to do a show for them with no admittance charge,” he said. “It was nice to do something like that and give back to them.”
For this year’s show, the trio have obtained new equipment so that they can do a first-class show, and Natwick is obtaining the professional license through the ATF that is required to do a show sponsored in part with city funds.
He’s doing this year’s show at cost, too, so that the community will get a better fireworks show than it has in years past.
“Right now, if this was a show the city had to buy, it would be a minimum $60,000,” Natwick said. “We are not making a penny on this. It’s all going to be wholesale.”