Annual fireworks sales in Oak Harbor help feed children in need, fund scholarships

It’s a few days before the Fourth of July and the Coulson family is P-U-M-P-E-D to ignite some fireworks. They dropped a wad of cash on an armful of legal fireworks at the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor’s tent.

Calvin Coulson

It’s a few days before the Fourth of July and the Coulson family is P-U-M-P-E-D to ignite some fireworks.

They dropped a wad of cash on an armful of legal fireworks at the Rotary Club of Oak Harbor’s tent.

After being stationed in Hawaii in a spot where she couldn’t shoot them off, Michelle Coulson was eager to celebrate the holiday like she did as child growing up in Oak Harbor and show her teenage son the best fireworks.

“We’re going to celebrate the Fourth the way it was intended,” she said.

At least two community organizations, Rotary and the Knights of Columbus, are selling fireworks through Monday night.

They both typically raise around $4,000 to $6,000, money that pays scholarships and other programs benefitting local people.

Rotary, for instance, uses part of the money to fund a program that fills backpacks with food for children in need.

Last year’s tinder dry temperatures hampered sales, said Michael Gerrity with the Knights of Columbus.

Gerrity said he expects this year’s sales to be more typical.

“Slow at the beginning and then ‘BOOM!’” he said.

The unexpectedly dry weather last year also prompted a discussion about the inability of the Island County sheriff — who serves as county fire marshal — to ban fireworks during dangerously dry conditions.

Island County Commissioners fixed that by passing an ordinance earlier this month allowing the fire marshal to temporarily restrict the discharge of fireworks in unincorporated areas of Island County if he feels condition warrant it. It goes into effect next year.

Additionally, the ordinance decreases the total days consumer fireworks are authorized for discharge in the unincorporated areas.

Under state law, consumer fireworks can be discharged at various times from June 28 to July 5 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1. The new county ordinance will restrict consumer fireworks to July 3-5, as well as Dec. 31.

Such a ban within city limits might put a crimp on fundraising, but Rotary member Jim Slowik said the club will adapt if that happens.

“If this goes away, we’re committed to raising money for scholarships and the backpack program,” he said. “We’ll find a funding source for them.”

Municipalities in Island County — Langley, Coupeville and Oak Harbor — do not fall under the scope of the ordinance. In Oak Harbor, residents can light off legal fireworks between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. from now until July 3, 9 a.m. and midnight on the Fourth, and 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 5.

It’s against the law to buy, possess or discharge fireworks that are classified as sky rockets, missile type rockets, firecrackers, salutes or chasers.

People who’d prefer not to buy their own fireworks can take in the city show, which should start around 10:30 p.m.

The fireworks will be launched from the shoreline by the lagoon at Windjammer Park.


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