For decades, people have gathered at Fullerton Elementary School for the Fourth of July fireworks display.
But this year's event might not take place because of a lack of money, said event coordinator Joseph Ferraracci.
With only two weeks to go before the bash - which in the past has included a puppet show, music and vendors, along with a 30- to 45-minute fireworks display - only about $8,000 of the $26,000 needed to pay for the event has been raised, Ferraracci said.
"In previous years, we've always been able to raise the money we needed to fund the event," Ferraracci said. "But this year we're having a hard time. The cost of the fireworks has gone up, and I think people just don't give a darn anymore."
As a result, Ferraracci and a small group of volunteers - operating under the auspices of Allied Community Services, a nonprofit created in 1962 to raise money for the event - are in high gear trying to raise the money in time.
The event draws as many as 25,000 spectators annually, according to Ferraracci. Despite the financial woes, Ferraracci has secured a permit for the display.
While key members of the fundraising group have died, and others have fallen ill and are no longer able to help with the event, Ferraracci is using the same methods of fundraising this year as in previous years, he said. For starters, he sent letters to local businesses. The response was disheartening.
"In my opinion this is the best fireworks show in the area," Ferraracci, 69, said. "And I don't know what to think when some businesses in the area don't even respond to our letters. I don't know if they're just tightening their belts or what, but people aren't giving money or support like they used to."
For example, each year donations are accepted at the event to help cover the cost of that year's display, Ferraracci said. In previous years, as much as $8,000 was collected, but last year only $2,800 was donated, he said.
Ferraracci isn't the only person involved who says this year's event might not come off.
"This is a 46-year-old tradition in our community," said Jeff Stintz, president of the Overlea Community Association. "And the tradition is in trouble this year. We knew that missing a year could cause vendors and spectators to find another place to go on the Fourth of July, so we wanted to help."
Stintz and Bud Herb, president of the Linover Improvement Association, contacted Ferraracci in March and offered their assistance in fundraising.
Ferraracci said he began raising money last month, as his group had in previous years.
"We have been raising the money the same way for over 40 years," Ferraracci said. "And we have never started until May, because people don't think about fireworks until then. We don't want to send out letters and have the business owners forget about it before they send money."
Although Stintz thought May was too late to start fundraising, he and Herb went door to door asking businesses for help, he said. To entice new businesses they offered supporters a seat in a VIP viewing area and a catered Fourth of July party in exchange for their donations, said Stintz, the owner of McMann & Tate LLC, a sales and marketing business in Baltimore.
"We raised $3,000 in one day," Stintz said. "But it was just too late to do what we wanted to do. People were expecting big things, and we just didn't have the time to put it all together this year."
Although Stintz and Herb have already set their sights on next year's event, Ferraracci isn't giving up.
"We still have two weeks to go," he said. "People work hard for the fireworks event. And I don't want to miss a year."
Fireworks displays in Baltimore County approved by the fire marshal's office as of yesterday:
The Barge, Eastern Yacht Club Road, Middle River
College Manor Inc., 300 W. Seminary Ave., Lutherville
Jacksonville Elementary School, 3400 Hillendale Road, Jacksonville (rain date July 1) July 1:
Hereford Optimist Club, 17220 York Road, Hereford (rain date July 2)
Woodholme Country Club, 300 Woodholme Ave., Pikesville (rain date July 7) July 3:
Baltimore Country Club, 11500 Mays Chapel Road, Timonium (rain date July 4)
The Suburban Club, 7600 Park Heights Ave., Pikesville (rain date July 7) July 4:
Greenspring Valley Hunt Club, 30 Greenspring Valley Road, Owings Mills (rain date July 5)
Fullerton Elementary School, 4305 Fullerton Ave., Fullerton (rain date July 5)
Catonsville High School, 421 Bloomsbury Ave., Catonsville (rain date July 7)
Grange Elementary School, 2000 Church Road, Dundalk (rain date July 7)
The list might expand as other organizations apply for and receive fireworks display permits from the fire marshal's office. [Source: Baltimore County Fire Department]