If you have a 7-year-old child in Kirkland, he or she has never known a July without a parade, a cool picnic and spectacular fireworks. And chances are your child has participated in the kids' parade and is now ready to "graduate" to the big parade. Similarly, the Kirkland 4th of July celebration needs to graduate from a fledgling event to a sustainable annual celebration of our entire community.
In 1999, a group of us organized a town meeting to plan for our millennium event: a revival of Kirkland's Fourth of July celebration from years ago. At that meeting neighbors were asked to imagine what the Fourth could be like. On July 4, 2000, everything we envisioned became reality.
That was the beginning of a celebration which has captured the heart of Kirkland, not to mention the surrounding region. Over the past six years the parade, community picnic and fireworks display has grown, matured and enriched the fabric of our town.
Many believe that the Fourth is put on by the city of Kirkland. Not so! To be sure, the city helps but we receive grant funding annually which covers about one-third of our costs. The fact is we formed a non profit organization, Celebrate Kirkland! Inc. in 1999 to organize, fund-raise and put on the day. The mission of Celebrate Kirkland! is: "to build community through an annual celebration that brings all aspects of Kirkland together."
Last year was Kirkland's centennial and the parade was bigger than ever. Plus, we had two fireworks displays. The Kirkland Rotary Club stepped up and took on the planning, management and execution of the picnic at Juanita Beach. With help from our grant monies and private fund-raising, the Rotary was able to put on a fantastic event that drew thousands to an outstanding picnic with old fashioned games, music and food.
It's June, so we are madly planning and organizing this year's events. The parade grand marshal will be members of the Seattle Seahawks. We are again working with the military to repeat the flyover that has become such a popular signal to start the parade. The theme of the parade is "All American Sports" and we will once again encourage competition between entrants for the coveted "Kirkland Cup," awarded to the parade entry best symbolizing the parade theme.
The city council, at its annual retreat this year, made a decision that will assure annual funding for the Fourth of July without the need for going through the grant process. However, the level of funding will only cover again about one-third of our actual costs; we will still to have to raise about $40,000-$50,000 every year. We established the Firecracker 500 Fundraiser (500 people who donate $100 each) as a means to keep the celebration going strong.
The final and most important ingredient in the success of Kirkland's 4th of July is you! Consider becoming one of the Firecracker 500 or volunteering your time. We need about 200 volunteers to do everything from setting up barricades to parade monitoring to making boutonnières for our veterans. Please go to www.celebratekirkland.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org today.
Penny Sweet is the president and founder of Celebrate Kirkland! Inc.