As a child, my parents took me, my brother and our two sisters to the local county park on New York’s Long Island to see the annual fireworks show on the Fourth of July. We’d bring our blankets and chairs to set up on what we thought would be the most optimal viewing spot in the park. Then my brother and I would run off to play with friends from the area. The only thing that was remotely commercial about that show was the Mr. Softee Ice Cream truck in the parking lot swirling out goodness onto wafer cones.
As the sun sunk on the horizon, a soft breeze from the Great South Bay washed away the last remaining vestiges of the daytime heat. We’d make our way back to the blankets and lie on our backs gazing at the placid heavens waiting for that first volley to whistle up and burst into a chrysanthemum of glowing embers illuminating the night sky. As embers shimmied down, fading away, a steady cadence of rockets streaked upward igniting overlapping flashes of glory and a cacophony of thunderous booms. It was an aerial barrage of our village enclave.
Decades later, after starting my own family, I wanted my two daughters to have a similar experience. In 1999, I organized the first Stevenson Ranch fireworks show for the community. At the time, the Richard Rioux Memorial Park was not even completed yet, but the developer allowed us to shoot the pyrotechnics there anyway while residents watched from the street we closed off in front of the park. It was a quintessential small town Fourth of July celebration — family, friends and neighbors all gathered together in an intimate non-commercial venue to gaze at a choreographed bombardment of color and sound. It was a wonderful spectacle.
For 10 years, myself and a group of dedicated volunteers put on that show for the community. We raised the funds to cover the expenses, which included not just the fireworks but also rentals, portable toilets, sheriff’s deputies, CHP, trash removal, insurance, etc. When I stepped away, another member of the community picked it up and continued it for six more years with the Stevenson Ranch Community Owners Association (HOA) covering the cost with funds generated from filming fees and a lease agreement with a cell carrier.
Then the show was passed off again, this time to a professional event coordinator because no one from the community stepped up to take it on.
This type of a community event should and often does take on a life of its own to carry on into the future with different members of the community pitching in to make it happen. But sadly, the Stevenson Ranch community is short on those willing to volunteer their time for the greater good. Then this year the lease agreement with the cellular provider was canceled and the HOA no longer had the funds to cover the cost. Even with a plea to the community for a simple $15 contribution, few made that effort. Just think, if every homeowner in the Stevenson Ranch community contributed $15 each, then the budget would be have been completely covered.
When I heard the show was canceled, I decided to make some phone calls to see if we could rally the business community as a stopgap to save this year’s show. It was a Hail Mary pass. I knew it but I wanted to try anyway. The thought was there, but it was too late. No, there will not be a fireworks show in Stevenson Ranch this year, nor possibly ever again. It’s a disappointment for all who had sustained it for nearly two decades. That sense of small town has evaporated like the sparkling fireworks fading in the sky.
I want to thank The Signal, Chiquita Canyon Landfill and The Valencia Auto Dealers Association for stepping up to the plate immediately with generous pledges as well as Five Point and Jersey Mike’s for considering my ask. I also want to thank the SCV Chamber of Commerce and John Musella for jumping in to help. But it became clear, though, five days after I started making calls, that the community was more or less ambivalent to the urgency of the situation. Only another $600+ was pledged by residents and that spoke volumes that the fireworks show was no longer that important to this community. Granted, there were plenty of homeowners who donated, but there were a lot more who didn’t. That was sad. It also galvanized the glaring entitlement demeanor that has so permeated many communities.
This year on the Fourth of July, as the day slips away to night, I will go into my backyard and lie on blanket to look up at the darkening heavens. Not to see fireworks but to think about my brother, who would have turned 60 this July, and all the others who have gallantly served and sacrificed for our country over the years so we could maintain the freedoms and values that our great nation was founded on. That’s the true meaning. There will be no rockets’ red glare. No bombs bursting in air. Just the twinkling stars on the night canvas and maybe a soft breeze bringing relief from the heat of a summer day.
Wishing you all a wondrous and safe Fourth of July, whatever you do.
Dave Bossert is a community volunteer who serves on several boards and councils. His commentaries represent his own opinions and not necessarily the views of any organization he may be affiliated with or those of The Signal.