Funds needed for annual fireworks display

LEWISTOWN – For the past seven years, RiverFEST has drawn to a close along the banks of the Juniata with fireworks lighting the sky and reflecting on the water. This year, RiverFEST is not being held and funding for the fireworks must be found elsewhere if the show is to be presented.

Jim Tunall, executive director of the Juniata River Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau, said fireworks have been presented in Lewistown for decades. At first, the show was sponsored by one company, then three companies, until eventually the cost was distributed between several entities. With economic climates fluctuating for different businesses at different times, it became more cumbersome to manage the funding.

“After that, RiverFEST became the financial arm that paid for the fireworks,” Tunall said.

Festival sponsorships and vendor fees were used to pay the $7,500 bill for the 30-minute show, provided by Pyrotechnica, a company located in New Castle.

“They’ve done our fireworks for years and years. They’re a very nice dependable company that has worked with us,” Tunall said.

Tunall believes the fireworks display is a must-have for the area.

“There are certain things in the community that I think we owe our kids,” he said, adding that although there are fantastic fireworks shows in surrounding areas, hundreds of kids in the Juniata Valley have no way of getting to them. On top of that, Tunall said, those displays are all-day events that could become quite costly for a family to attend.

“I don’t look at the fireworks selfishly as a need, but I think of the people who, if we didn’t have the fireworks, they would have no memory of fireworks,” he said.

Tunall spent the past few weeks sending letters and reaching out to the community in an effort to raise funds for the annual display. He acknowledged the community has come through for many recently, from an outpouring of support for Juniata Terrace fire victims to providing the money needed to clearcoat the History of Theatre mural in downtown Lewistown.

“It’s difficult when you have so many things that need to be funded,” Tunall said, “But I’ve seen some amazing things happen when you reach out to this community.”

Tunall said his office has already taken in almost $1,000 in donations. He said every dollar counts, and donations in any amount are being accepted at the historic courthouse on the square in downtown Lewistown. Funds can also be mailed to 1 W. Market St., Lewistown, PA 17044. Checks should be made payable to JVACC Fireworks Fund.

The fireworks are currently scheduled to be displayed on July 5. Tunall said the happy memories created during the display and the “warm fuzzies” for the community are a given reward for the support.

“I cannot imagine a fourth of July celebration without local fireworks,” he said.