Friday, May 24, 2024

Ottawa fireworks volunteers stepping down

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Besides seeking donations for Ottawa’s annual Fourth of July fireworks, the nonprofit Ottawa First organization also is seeking new blood.

Now in its 15th year, members of Ottawa First, the group of volunteer workers, most of whom have been with the effort from the start, are planning on stepping down.

This year, they still will be seeking funds with personal appeals to longtime donors and at public collection points, as well as at car windows the morning of Saturday, June 8, at Norris Drive and Columbus Street.

The price tag for this year’s fireworks show is $50,000.

They hope new volunteers or another established group will assume the role of raising funds for a fireworks display that Ottawa residents – and a flood of visitors – enjoy each Independence Day.

If that doesn’t happen, the group’s remaining funds will be turned over to the city. No matter what, the longtime volunteers are stepping down.

“We’ve been at it for a long time, and we all want a break,” treasurer Lou Ann Carretto said.

Also stepping down will be her husband, Bob Carretto, who is known for his standing offer to pick up donations.

Other original members who have said they are leaving include Ottawa First President Larry Johnson, former Mayor Dan Aussem, former Commissioner James Less, WCMY radio announcer Jay LeSeure and all other member who were contacted.

The organization began in 2010 as Friends of Fireworks but incorporated as a nonprofit organization with the name Ottawa First.

Over the years, to raise fireworks funds, Ottawa First has sponsored popular events such as “Ottawa Has Talent” south of Washington Square and an Oktoberfest at the Jordan Block park.

The biggest fundraising success came with a cash raffle for several years that offered a $10,000 grand prize.

“That’s what really brought the money in,” Lou Anne Carretto said.

The goal was to accumulate enough money each year to pay for the next year’s fireworks show. By 2019, the fireworks fund exceeded $100,000. That proved fortunate because when the pandemic hit in 2020, fundraising almost came to a halt.

For the next couple of years, when contributions were lean, the surplus covered the costs. Currently, the Ottawa First treasury has about $40,000, and this year’s fundraising effort is just getting started.

People and organizations interested in becoming involved in raising money for Ottawa’s annual fireworks show should call Lou Anne Carretto at 815-252-4350.

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