Saturday, February 6, 2010

Council weighs fireworks options

Written by News Staff

Show may go on under city’s insurance policy

GUSTINE - A collective effort is under way to ensure that Gustine’s Fourth of July fireworks show continues.

The Gustine High football stadium has been the traditional setting for the July 4 grand finale, a community tradition dating back nearly a century, but the future of the fireworks display has been in question since the school district learned that its insurance policy specifically excludes coverage of the event.

The city has become involved since representatives of the Gustine Chamber of Commerce, which this year is taking over organization of the July 4 festivities, went before the council last week asking for assistance with a location.

Mike Gandy asked that the city allow the fireworks to be set off from the city-owned storm drain basin/soccer field on Jensen Road, with the nearby football stadium to be used for viewing.

Gandy later told Mattos Newspapers that the Jensen Road site appeared to be the only apparent alternative - but city and school district leaders have subsequently explored an arrangement which may allow fireworks to be launched from their traditional location north of the high school football field after all.

“The city contacted us on Friday to ask if they could use their insurance policy and still have the fireworks at Gustine High,” Superintendent Gail McWilliams confirmed.

The school district is looking into whether that would be satisfactory to its insurance carrier, so whether that option is feasible remains to be seen.

“It is not just the amount of the policy; it has to be worded in a way that covers our needs,” McWilliams noted. “We’re doing the best that we can to help and to work with them, but it may still come down to just not being able to do it on our property.”

Using the stadium for viewing of fireworks launched from a more remote location would be acceptable if it turns out that the pyrotechnics cannot be set off from the school site, McWilliams said.

City Manager Margaret Silveira said she is optimistic the fireworks show will continue this year - at one of the locations in question or the other.

Using the Jensen Road site would require county authorization and force the closure of Jensen Road between North Avenue and Bambauer Road during the event, city officials noted.

The city’s existing $29 million policy would cover a fireworks show, Silveira said, but the city must be a sponsor and have a staff presence and oversight at the event.

Mayor Rich Ford said he wants the city to do what it can to help the fireworks show continue.

“I’d hate to see us lose the fireworks. From the time I was a little kid I loved seeing those fireworks,” Ford reflected. “It may be tough to put something together to make it work, but hopefully we can come up with something that will keep it going.”

Gandy said that the chamber needs to know by May 1 at the latest if the show will go on in order to finalize arrangements and conduct the community fund-raisers which pay for the fireworks display.

Fireworks have long been a Fourth of July feature in Gustine, council members were reminded last Tuesday.

Gustine historian Pat Snoke said Gustine’s fireworks tradition dates back to 1911, when the community celebrated July 4 with a parade, speeches, children’s games, a baseball game between Newman and Gustine, a grand ball and a fireworks show that cost $75.

Though the still-young town of Gustine was home to just 350 people, some 1,500 converged on the community for that first gala.


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