About a dozen years ago I was operating a real estate agency in our small town of Priest River, Idaho and I was bothered by the fact that the 4th of July celebration I remembered from childhood had somehow fallen by the wayside.
So I went to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and suggested that it might be time to bring it back. They said "Sure, go ahead and do it."
OK then - was anyone going to help? Heck no!
So I started out on my own to find out where to buy the fireworks, who could legally fire them off, etc. A fireman could do it, but none were willing. Finally I found a company who does nothing but fireworks displays and they did have one crew left who could do our event. It would cost at minimum $2,500.
I should have just worked at getting one more closing and paying for the thing myself. But no - I started trying to collect funds from the community. And I was terrible at it! I felt like I was asking for money for myself rather than for the community... and I'm not good at "gimmie." I don't even like to remind clients of a past due invoice for services rendered.
Lucky for me, I made the acquaintance of two young women who had the time, the desire, and the nerve to go get the money. They raised $3,500 and we were able to make the show just a little bit bigger.
Meanwhile, I was writing news articles and telling people to come to the event. And everyone I met said they hadn't read the articles, and didn't know it was going to happen. I was afraid the only ones there would be me and the two ladies!
Finally the big night arrived and I was running around crazy, coordinating with the shooters, the musicians, the firemen, the ambulance people, and the man who would turn the lights off at the appropriate time. I saw people drifting into the park, but the crowd didn't seem very big.
Then, just before it was time for the show to start, I went out to the parking lot to get something from the car. I was headed back when the first shot went into the air, and so was a little boy of about 8.
I'll never forget that moment, because that little boy made all my work worthwhile.
He threw his arms in the air and shouted to the sky "Happy Birthday America!"
I still get misty when I think of him. And I still wish I knew who he was so I could tell him what that impulsive action on his part meant to me.
And as for the attendance...
When the show was over and the park lights came back on, I was amazed. The park was FULL. And then I looked across the river and saw car lights coming on ... the huge parking lot at the sawmill was full and both sides of the road were lined with cars.
My little town really did care about "Happy Birthday America!"
While I handed over the reins to the project a few years ago, it is still going on... and I fully intend to drive to town on Sunday night to watch the show.