Exeter Lion Club seeks donation to prevent 4th of July fireworks fizzle


exeter – For 72 years the Exeter Lions Club has provided a Fourth of July Fireworks Show completely free to the public. And while the club is fighting to keep the tradition from fizzling out, skyrocketing costs may blow up future events without help from the public.

As longtime Lions Club treasurer, Mickey Hirni said the fireworks show used to cost between $1,000 and $2,500 but now costs have exploded to more than $15,000 for the 30-minute extravaganza over Dobson Field in Exeter.

That cost doesn’t even account for the training and certification courses for the firing crew as well as the head pyrotechnic. Hirni, who worked on the firing crew for 25 years, said anyone who lit even one mortar was required to get certified by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. In the past, a crew of about 15 dedicated volunteers ran the show and lit more than 650 mortars into the night sky. Many of those Lions paid for the permitting out of their own pocket just to have the privilege of partaking in their town’s tradition.

In order to offset some of the Club’s cost, the Lions have always asked for donations at the Dobson Field show. Hirni said the donations have never covered the cost of the fireworks, but it does reduce the amount of funds the club needs to raise. The Lions Club also requires those in attendance leave their ice chest at home and purchase concessions sold on site.

Hirni’s daughter and fellow Lion Marlene Sario said increased regulations and the cost of fireworks has created a hardship for the event and eventually will make the fireworks show unsustainable.

“We believe small towns like Exeter with their steadfast traditions are an important part of America and it’s our responsibility to keep the celebrations alive,” Sario wrote in a letter to the community last month. “We want to give people an organizations in the community an opportunity to contribute to the Fireworks Celebration.”

Sario said those interested can still purchase sponsorships of the event which include VIP seating and a package of fun to enjoy Dobson Field at dusk on Independence Day. But more than that, Sario hopes that the families who enjoy the fireworks from their own front and back porches could spare a donation to keep the event going.

“I want to reach out to people who watch the fireworks from home and let them know we are glad they enjoy the fireworks but in order to continue this great tradition please send in small donation you can afford,” Sario said. “If everyone gave a little it would be enough to keep the show going.”

Sario said any donations received for the show will be put into a special fund that can only be spent on the 72-year-old tradition. Any money not spent this year will be used for future Fourth of July fireworks shows. To donate, contact Lion Marlene Sario by emailing [email protected] or calling 559-280-3726.

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