July 4 fireworks on again at Expo Center

File PhotoThe annual Fourth of July Independence Celebration is back on track at the Expo Center in McAlester for July 4, 2020, thanks to the contributions of individuals, organizations and businesses who have come forward to pay for the fireworks display after the city said it did not have the funds to pay for the event.

Word that the city of McAlester would be unable to pay for the annual Fourth of July fireworks display this year launched an explosive response from the community.

Thanks to the contributions of private businesses and organizations, the event is on again.

"We are going to be having a fireworks display July Fourth," said McAlester Mayor John Browne. "There are some generous donors who said they would take care of it."

The free fireworks display at the Expo Center is set to begin shortly after dusk.

Browne said Billy Sumner and Eddie Gray of the city's Tourism Department got the company the city has previously used to conduct fireworks displays to agree to take on this year's event on short notice.

"They found a way to make this happen," Browne said.

The mayor noted it was a cooperative effort.

"This couldn't have happened without the community coming together," the mayor continued. Browne said people in the McAlester area look forward to celebrating the birth of the nation.

"People in the community stepped up and said let's not let this pass without a fireworks display," said Browne. "It's great to have people like that in this community."

Browne said the largest donors included the First National Bank, Sam Wampler's Freedom Ford, Big V Feeds, the Fugitt family and Platinum Appraisals. Other donors have also pitched in or plan to contribute.

City Manager Pete Stasiak said city personnel will prepare the Expo Center grounds for the event.

"We'll get out there and get it mowed and make sure it's presentable to the public," said Stasiak. He expects security to be  provided.

"The sheriff's reserve deputies always come out and help us," he said.

Both Browne and Stasiak previously said the city would not be able to host the annual Fourth of July Stars and Stripes Celebration this year due to the budget crunch the city is experiencing. Stasiak blamed the city's budget woes on several factors, including a slowdown in the oil and gas industry, sales tax collections below what was budgeted and the COVD-19 pandemic.

Browne is grateful all of the elements came together to make this year's fireworks display a reality. He thanked everyone who worked to make the event possible at a time he said the city could not afford it. 

"I really appreciate the incredibly generous people who have stepped forward to do this," Browne said. "The wonderful thing about our community is we have businesses and organizations who will not let the Fourth of July go by without celebrating the birth of our nation."

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com.

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