Grand Island Lit Sign

Fireworks show at Fonner Park finishes out 150th Anniversary

Grand Island Lit Sign

Efforts to bring a public fireworks display show back to Grand Island are nearing fruition, as members involved are asking the public to help their complete its fundraising goals. 

“We’ve raised almost $45,000 thanks to the generous support of local businesses,” said Chris Rosacker, member of the fireworks committee, “We’re almost there. We just need a little more support to get over the finish line.”

With funds raised already, Rosacker said the committee is able to fund the cost of the fireworks themselves and the display contractor to launch them. However, he said they need about 12 percent more to fund all the other associated costs to make this event free for the whole community.

It’s been a few years since fireworks were launched from Fonner Park’s campus off South Locust Street. Prior to the 2020 cessation, Grand Island Family Radio had traditionally organized the annual Independence Day observances with backing from community sponsors but ceased during the initial months of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many residents have a misconception that Fonner Park had organized those shows, however Fonner’s role was as a host to the event and one of its sponsors.  

For years prior, the parking lot at Fonner and the surrounding streets and neighborhoods would be jammed with cars, lawn chairs, and blankets as the community annually gathered to look to the skies to celebrate the national holiday. The neighborhood just North of Fonner Park even began to organize something of an after-party, which entailed the launch of thousands of dollars of their own collectively-funded fireworks just moments after the conclusion of professional display. 

“The annual show of fireworks at Fonner Park was something people really looked forward to,” said Don Deitemeyer, a fireworks committee member. “It was something of a tradition for folks to go see. I can’t tell you how many people have told me they are excited for it to return.”

The effort to bring back a free fireworks show spun out of efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of Grand Island, NE that began with the July 4 celebrations at Stuhr Museum on July 4, 2022, in observance of the first settlers to arrive on July 4, 1857. 

Other Grand Island sesquicentennial observances included an Open House at Stolley House, the Craft Brew and Sausage Fest at the Grand Island Liederkranz, the Harvest of Harmony Parade in downtown Railside, historic bus tours, and many events at the Grand Island Library and Burlington Station. 

After all that, Rosacker said 150th organizers thought that the best way to conclude the year of observations was with the return of fireworks. 

Tax-deductible donations can be made by mailing a check to the Hall County Historical Society and earmarking “fireworks” in the memo line. The mailing address for the Hall County Historical Society is 603 N. Plum St., Grand Island, NE 68801. Sponsorships levels are also available in intervals of $500, $1,000, $2,500, $5,000, and $10,000, which earn sponsors increasing levels of recognition. 

For instance, Five Points Bank, Fonner Park, Island Heating & Air, GI Family Radio, and Ryder Rosacker McCue & Huston Insurance Services have thus far led the pack of nearly a dozen sponsors in support of the effort to bring back fireworks to the public in Grand Island. 

Community sponsors are sought to again help underwrite this rejuvenation of a community fireworks display, with the hope that this sesquicentennial observance can reignite this annual tradition. Anyone interested in supporting this effort is encouraged to reach out to Dana Jelinek at the Grand Island Tourism. By concluding a year of marking Grand Island’s 150-year birthday, organizers hope that momentum will continue to keep fireworks exploding for the public of the city’s sky for years to come. 

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