Selling bang for big bucks

  • Jenny Lynn Zappala<br>Enterprise editor
  • Monday, March 3, 2008 6:43am

For Mountlake Lake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith, the busy Fourth of July holiday started a week ago. Smith and his volunteer crew had to pitch tents, unpack colorful merchandise and open the cash register before the customers arrived on Tuesday.

If all goes well, Smith and his crews will raise about $35,000 in five days for the Mountlake Terrace Youth Athletic Association and another $5,000 for Tour de Terrace.

For Smith, the sale is a great way to celebrate the nation’s independence and support a good cause.

“Ever since I was a kid, we celebrated the Fourth of July with fireworks,” Smith said. “There are people out there who don’t like them. I think they lose the true meaning of what the Fourth of July is about – celebrating Independence Day. As long as everyone does it in a safe matter, it is enjoyable.”

The danger is irresponsible people and illegal fireworks, according to Smith, a Mountlake Terrace resident for 37 years and a veteran. Smith urges everyone to buy safe-and-sane fireworks and supervise their children.

“We are out here to help kids, not harm them,” Smith said. “It is just like anything else. There is always a few people who are going to abuse it — just like drinking and driving. The ones who abuse it usually give everyone a bad name.”

The Fourth of July fireworks sale under Smith’s leadership has been a significant fund raiser for the Mountlake Terrace Youth Athletic Association for about 27 years, which in turn supports dozens of youth teams. The sale is a great way for parents to volunteers, the community to show its support and raise the money in a few days, Judi Smith, 63, said.

“My husband and I hate fund-raisers,” Judi Smith said. “This way you can work for one week and make the same amount of money you would selling candy bars. I call this my vacation. I love the people and it’s just fun.”

Tour de Terrace, the city’s annual summer festival, joined the booming business about 12 years ago. The Tour de Terrace attracts about 30,000 people with a carnival, car show, live music, food and other amusements.

The fireworks sale is critical to keeping the festival, which costs about $40,000, free to the public, according to Smith, a Tour de Terrace organizer. Without the fireworks fund raiser, the festival organizers would probably have to start charging for admission.

“We give everything away for free,” Smith said. “We do not have a lot of merchants (in Mountlake Terrace) to help pay for some of this stuff.”

This year, there are six booths in Mountlake Terrace, a booth in Kent and a booth in Kirkland.

Each tent or wooden booth generates about $1,500 to $5,000 during the fireworks season. American Promotions of Tacoma provides the fireworks on commission so the youth teams and festival volunteers keep roughly 10 percent on every purchase.

Supporters can also make donations at the booths without buying anything.

“We will accept donations at anytime,” Smith said.

Roger O’Neill, a 14-year-old All Star player from Edmonds, appreciates the support. O’Neill is one of dozens of league players and parents who will man the booths this week.

Baseball “gives you something to do in the summer besides sleep in,” he said.

The group used to operate booths in Shoreline until the city banned fireworks. Smith hopes Mountlake Terrace does not follow suit.

Legal fireworks give residents an alternative to firecrackers from the Indian reservations, which are more powerful and are supposed to stay on the reservation, Smith said. People sneak the firecrackers and bottle rockets into their neighborhoods and light them at all hours.

“If we did not have our type of fireworks – safe and sane – everyone would buy fireworks at the Indian reservation,” Smith said. “Some of that stuff is really scary.”

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