POULSBO — Despite a fireworks storage fire last year and losing a major funder in the year since, Viking Fest Corporation has pulled together another full 3rd of July fireworks celebration.
Safeway has stepped forward to be the title sponsor of 3rd of July and Viking Fest this year, according to Viking Fest Corp. President Ron Krell.
Mayor Becky Erickson was the link between the two. She said Safeway reached out to her at the beginning of the year, asking how the company can begin to be involved in the community. Safeway is building a store and gas station at 10th Avenue and Lincoln Road; the store is expected to open in December.
“They have been a very responsive company to work with,” Erickson said. “They have a history and tradition of being very community oriented … They understand community goodwill is very important for their business.”
Erickson said Safeway representatives “zeroed in” on Viking Fest Corp. when she offered a few ways for Safeway to help local organizations. A deal was struck in February, Krell said.
“In both of these events, we will be offering food and drink products in exchange for a donation to a local charity that will soon be selected,” said Sara Osborne, public and government affairs director for Safeway’s Northwest division.
“Safeway employees are dedicated to volunteerism and especially like to take on projects in the neighborhoods where they work and live … Safeway is very much looking forward to serving and being a part of the Poulsbo community, both inside and outside our doors.”
The 3rd of July event needed a sponsor this year after Port Madison Enterprises, the business arm of the Suquamish Tribe, said it would not donate this year. It had funded the 3rd of July fireworks since 2007.
PME media coordinator Lisa Rodriguez said the company’s sponsorship budget was “cut dramatically” and will be focused more on charitable causes and nonprofits. PME again donated a $2,000 scholarship for the Miss Viking Fest Pageant this year.
CEO Russell Steele added that eventually, the company would like to host its own fireworks show, possibly at Kiana Lodge or the Clearwater Casino Resort.
Neither Krell nor Safeway would disclose the amount of the donation yet, but Krell said it covered the cost of the fireworks, which have increased in price. The fireworks will again be supplied by Robert Nitz, owner of Aurora Fireworks.
“They’re a local firm [and] they do a great show,” Krell said.
Nitz lost money after his supply was destroyed by fire a week before last year’s celebrations. Nitz supplies fireworks for Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island’s Grand Old Fourth, and Silverdale’s Whaling Days. The fire was started when a bullet, fired from a gun being tested nearby, struck a fireworks storage container in a yard in Belfair.
“Unfortunately, the disaster of last year impacted him greatly,” Krell said of Nitz, who bought last-minute supplies from local distributors last year at a markup.
Nitz usually buys his fireworks in bulk direct from China. Krell said Nitz started this year with no money in his pocket and had to buy from local distributors again. Nitz did not return calls for comment.
This year, the fireworks and barge cost $23,000, more than last year’s original cost of $16,500.
Krell said donations will still be needed to offset the costs of the revised electrical installation for the vendor booths, because of the reconfiguration of Anderson Parkway. Covering the costs of the entire show would wipe out Viking Fest Corp.’s reserves without more donations, Krell said.
“About another $8,000 and we’ll be fine,” Krell said.
Krell said people wanting to donate can do so at www.thirdofjuly.org; by mailing a check to Fireworks Fund, P.O. Box 1125, Poulsbo WA 98370; or at Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo Bank on Jensen Way, Tizley’s Europub or The Hare & Hounds Pub.
Safeway’s donation will also help fund Viking Fest, May 17-19. Go to www.vikingfest.org for more information about this year’s events.