County offers $50k for fireworks

Island County officials want people to have a blast on the Fourth of July.

Island County officials want people to have a blast on the Fourth of July.

At the request of the county commissioners, the members of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee are accepting applications from nonprofit organizations or governmental entities to put on professional fireworks displays. Up to $50,000 is available in lodging tax funds, which comes from a 2% tax on overnight stays in unincorporated areas of the county.

Island County Commissioner Melanie Bacon said she and her colleagues decided to offer funding for community fireworks shows after they adopted a ban on consumer mortar-style pyrotechnics, even though the new restriction doesn’t go into effect until next year.

“We are not against fireworks,” she said. “We just don’t want people to light off the big ones in their backyards.”

In addition, the church that used to sponsor a popular July 3 fireworks display in Freeland can no longer do so. The Freeland Chamber of Commerce expressed interest in taking up the tradition and Bacon hopes that it applies for the funding.

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee is accepting the proposals for fireworks displays until March 29. Under state law, the lodging tax revenues can be used “directly by any municipality or indirectly through a convention and visitors bureau or destination marketing organization.”

The committee will review all timely and complete applications and then send funding recommendations to the board of commissioners. The committee is made up of representatives from businesses that collect lodging taxes and the organizations that are eligible to apply for grants.

The proposal form is posted on the county’s website at and may also be requested by contacting Jennifer Roll at or 360-679-7385.

In January, the commissioners adopted a resolution in a 2-1 vote banning consumer use of mortar fireworks in the county. Additionally, the resolution prohibits the discharge of fireworks on July 5. Fines of up to $250 may apply for violations.

Mortar fireworks are large, multi-part pyrotechnics that are launched from a tube into the sky. The ban does not extend to mines, shells, cakes, roman candles or fountains. It also does not affect commercial displays of pyrotechnics.

A group of primarily South Whidbey residents formed a group, Citizens for Safe and Humane Fireworks, last year to advocate for a fireworks ban in the county. The group argues that fireworks create a risk of fire to property and wild areas as well as heavy metal pollution and noise that terrorizes wildlife, pets and domestic animals.

On the other hand, the sale of fireworks funds many charitable efforts in the community. Others pointed to the long tradition of families using fireworks to celebrate Independence Day.

In the end, Bacon was the only commissioner to support the ban on all fireworks.