SPENCER — Village officials announced Thursday plans to cancel this year’s Fourth of July festival and fireworks for budgetary reasons.
Fiscal Officer Sheri Ramey said the annual Independence Day parade will still go on, but the village can no longer afford to stage the pyrotechnic display. The fireworks cost the village about $15,000, she said.
The festival is another $18,000 in expenses, but it is offset by proceeds from concession vendors and parking fees. A community organization receives a portion for its work directing cars. Ramey said Spencer is too small a community to afford the festival and fireworks show given its current financial situation.
“All we really have is the Firestone trust,” Ramey said.
According to the last will and testament of John B. Firestone dated Oct. 2, 1961, the village was named the beneficiary of a civic trust fund worth about $1.7 million. Firestone was the last descendant of Jacob Firestone, who started the Farmers Savings Bank in 1900 in the center of the village.
Ramey said the village uses the interest from the trust for operating expenses.
“We have no operating levies and have not been able to pass an operating levy,” she said.
“We have two small police levies that don’t even cover the expenses of the police department, so that also comes from the trust,” Ramey added.
In an effort to cut expenses, Ramey said the village has done away with all non-essential activities and expenses. A spring cleanup day and the festival and fireworks show are the last to go.
“We’ve made cuts everywhere,” she said.
“The village is very frugal with its money,” she added. “We don’t have a lot of employees. They are not high-paid employees.”
The fire department started the festival about 50 years ago pegging it as a family picnic and it just grew from there into a daylong celebration, Ramey said.
In 2018, the day drew between 2,000 and 3,000 people who enjoyed games and inflatable attractions for kids, free shows from Jungle Bob and Balloon Clowns and a petting zoo and pony rides. Fireworks at dusk capped off the day.
Ramey, also the chairwoman of the festival, said she hopes the village will bring it back some day.
So far, no efforts have been made to do that. Ramey estimates between 80 percent and 90 percent of the yearly attendees do not live in the village of Spencer Township.
“We announced it in February and no one has come forth with any kind of committee or effort to raise the money and it would probably be hard to get fireworks at this stage with two months to go,” she said.