Congratulations to Columbia's Kiwanis Club for pulling off the city's annual Fourth of July celebration a week ago amid trying circumstances. The club's triumph is that much more impressive given the fact that its membership includes only eight people. Of course, there were hundreds of volunteers who gave their time and energy to direct traffic, collect parking fees and clean up afterward. Despite the weather, which kept people away during the early entertainment portion of the event, it was a qualified success.
It has been five years since the Kiwanis Club took over running the holiday fireworks presentation at Lake Kittamaqundi, and it does a valiant job. Still, given the tremendous number of people who arrived once the rains ended, it seems reasonable to wonder just how long Columbia can continue to host this event.
There were no official crowd estimates, but parking attendants logged about 3,600 vehicles. The lawn in front of the lake was wall-to-wall people by 7 p.m. Several major roads had to be blocked off. For the first time, officials of Columbia's Mall demanded that organizers hire security guards to handle overflow at the shopping facility.
Organizers, however, did the city proud by refusing to allow alcoholic beverages to be sold and by emphasizing the family aspects of the affair. Indeed, while "family" seemed the dominant theme, the celebration's greatest feature was the crowd's diversity. How fitting that Columbia would attract so many races and nationalities to this festivity.
The Kiwanis Club's sponsorship is a testament to the group's civic spirit. Very little proceeds are raised from the event; most go to pay for the more than $17,000 in fireworks. Howard County government and the Columbia Association contribute $6,000 and $3,000, respectively. All in all, it amounted to a superb celebration of the nation's 219th birthday, while highlighting the community's ability to come together in harmony. Few cities the size of Columbia can boast such an outstanding event, executed with hardly a hitch.
Still, one has to ask just how long Columbia can sustain this endeavor. With the celebration fresh in people's memories, now may be the best time to seek a broader base of corporate support to sustain the fireworks fete.