Though the dazzling show in the sky lasts only for part of an evening, preparation for the annual Fourth of July fireworks show at Laurel Park starts months in advance.
Dennis Fletcher, member of the American Legion in Hall County, said he started working with the county in January to get everything ready.
Becky Ruffner, marketing and public relations specialist with Hall County Parks and Leisure Services, said the agency helps as much as it can by providing the park and preparing it for the event, which starts at 9 a.m. on July 4 at Laurel Park. Fireworks start at dark.
“Our crews will spend some time out at the park the day before making sure that grass is cut, that things are cleaned up, bathrooms are ready and everything is ready for a crowd,” Ruffner said.
That’s just the beginning. The hardest part is getting volunteers to help before, during and especially after the event.
There are numerous vendors and lots of coordination that goes into the yearly show. Dave Dellinger, member of the Legion who’s been part of the Fourth of July event for about 13 years, said members helped park at least 2,000 cars last year.
“This one is certainly one of the biggest events in our community and certainly out at Laurel Park,” Ruffner said.
For such a large-scale event, volunteers are essential. The money from admissions goes to the Parks Department and to pay for the fireworks. The Legion can’t afford to pay workers to help with the event and has to rely on volunteers, which hadn’t been much of a problem in the past. That’s not the case anymore.
“All of us are getting older out there and trying to find volunteers to do all of this gets harder and harder every year,” Dellinger said. “But it’s worth it and it’s fun.”
Though it’s a difficult task, Dellinger and the rest of the Legion members in Hall County volunteer to make the Fourth of July event happen.
Ruffner said spectators have helped make cleanup after the event easier on the parks department and the Legion’s staff of volunteers.
“The aftermath is not too bad,” Ruffner said. “We’re prepared to clean up after people, to have our maintenance staff out there to sort of get the park back in order. But people are relatively good about tossing their garbage away, taking it out with them.”
That’s one less thing they have to worry about as the event ends. It has to be prepared and ready for people to visit the next day. The park operates as normal on July 5.
“It’s kind of stressful because it’s difficult to get volunteers, especially when they’ll be out there for a long time,” Fletcher said. “Some of us will be out there for 12 hours.”
Volunteers often go out before the event to find vendors and talk to business about offering door prizes. On the day of the event, they direct cars to parking spots, help with any information that’s needed, work at tent to discuss the American Legion and help out anywhere else needed.
The event takes a lot more work than meets the eye, so Ruffner urges guests to help out where they can. With a lack of volunteers, any extra help around the park can go a long way.
“It’s a beautiful park,” Ruffner said. “So take care of it like you would take care of your own home or your own property, because in a sense, it does belong to the citizens of Hall County, so keep that in mind.”