FAIRMONT - Fairmont is known for its July 4 fireworks, an event that draws hundreds of spectators to the shores of local lakes to view the dazzling pyrotechnic display that celebrates our country's liberty.
This year is no exception, but 2013 is special for the volunteers working behind the scene.
Twenty years ago, Fairmont's fire department relief association stepped forward to take over the fireworks when the Jaycees disbanded. The firefighters - known by their nonprofit name of "Light, Noise and Smoke of Fairmont" - do more than help the professionals on the actual holiday. They are in charge of fundraising for the event and organizing the details.
Roger Carlson was chief of the fire department 20 years ago, and he agreed to take over the show, with the initial stipulation that someone else would be in charge of fundraising. A group of businessmen banded together to raise the necessary funds, but by 1995, enthusiasm was already waning. Fairmont Fire Department Relief Association again stepped forward and donated funds from their charitable gambling proceeds. Then in 1998, Mark and Sue Hamre donated $20,000, which has been earning interest in a money market account.
"We still have money put away," Carlson said, "but some of our sources for funding have gone away. We get three to four good donations a year, but we could use more."
Other funds come from aluminum cans the firefighters collect from a trailer at Five Lakes Centre. The effort has paid off, earning about 20 percent of the cost of the show. The city of Fairmont also donates $1,200 each year, and Fairmont Women of Today sell glow necklaces on the Fourth that help the cause.
"We would welcome more contributions from wherever," Carlson said. "We'd like to keep it going, but we might have to cut back if we don't get more funds going forward.
Donations can be mailed to:
P.O. Box 427
Fairmont, MN 56031
The association initially spent about $7,000 on the display, Carlson said, but that amount grew over the years. Thursday's show will cost $20,000. About 3,000 shells will be shot off, ranging in size from 3 inches to 10 inches, with the price depending on the firecracker's size. Each 10-inch shell costs about $375.
J&M Displays out of Yarmouth, Iowa, is in charge of the show, but there's still plenty for the firefighters to do. Carlson estimates his crew of six to eight volunteer put in about 250-300 hours. Setup starts on July 3, and cleanup can go well past midnight on July 4.
"It's a 15- to 16-hour work day for us, and it can be really difficult if the weather's hot and humid," Carlson said.
Thursday's show starts shortly after 10 p.m., and a loud "boom" will precede the display every hour on the hour, starting at 6 p.m.
As a safety precaution, spectators cannot use the walking trail on the east side of Sisseton Lake, the vicinity where the fireworks are set off, after 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Lake access for boaters will be cut off as well around 8 p.m., in order to minimize traffic. Those boaters already on the lake are asked to keep their speeds down. Part of the show this year will include a raft in the middle of the lake, from which fireworks will be lit.
"We don't want the rafts to get wet," Carlson said.
Sylvania Park and Ward Park are popular spots for viewing the show, with the latter generally considered to have the best seats. Spectators often show up early in the evening to stake out their territory.
Looking forward, the fire relief association is considering the future of Fairmont's fireworks, from finding a replacement organization to take over organizing the event, to changing the scheduling, so the display would always take place on a weekend.
"During the week is tough for us," Carlson said. "My guys are shot after working that late."
Also taking place in Fairmont on Thursday are activities at Heritage Acres.
Fairmont Annual Music Festival will run from 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with a focus on country, bluegrass and old-time music.
Music will begin at 1 p.m. and continue until 6 p.m., with the highlight being the return of Barefoot Becky. According to the website barefootbecky.com, the band play German-style polka music, with Czech, country, dixie and big-band influences.
Other activities taking place on the grounds highlight what's available at the site year round. There are old farmhouses and barns, and also buildings that feature displays of old-time businesses, schools, churches and machinery that offer a look into our area's history.
All the buildings at Heritage Acres are handicapped-accessible and will be open and on display, with volunteers putting on demonstrations.
Other traditional favorites, such as the kiddie train rides, will still be part of the day.
Food and beverages will be available. There is an admission fee for this event.