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Celebrate America facing $3,500 shortfall days before event

Celebrate America is about $3,500 short of its $33,000 budget.

But don’t fret over Freeland’s fireworks display. Organizers said the show will go on.

“It’s already going to happen and we’ll figure out how we’re gonna cover the costs, however that happens,” said Matt Chambers, the event director and pastor of South Whidbey Assembly of God.

Two longtime sponsors who accounted for $6,000 were unable to renew their sponsorship this year.

“In the business climate we’re in, I was not surprised,” Chambers said.

Hope was not lost for organizers of the biggest Independence Day festival on South Whidbey. Chambers said he received $2,000 during the weekend and a pledge for $2,000.

Major sponsors may not be necessary if individual donors rise to cover the cost; $5, $20, $50 at a time.

The $33,000 budget for the annual event will mostly go up in smoke. About $20,000 was spent on fireworks, including 800 shells ranging from 2½ inches to 10 inches, plus six multi-shot shells for the grand finale. The fireworks budget also includes renting the barge from which the fireworks are shot and the fireworks company’s insurance.

“It’s not a backyard fireworks show,” Chambers said.

The budget has increased in recent years to pay for the sheriff’s services, which used to be included in the Island County Sheriff’s budget. Because of budget cuts to the sheriff’s office, organizers pay the costs for deputies to block roads, direct traffic and provide security.

Costs for the shuttle buses increased also, because of rising fuel prices.

Fuel for the diesel generators is an added cost this year. The festival received diesel fuel from long-time supporter Jim Scriven, who died a few weeks ago.

Entertainment costs doubled this year to about $2,000 — due in part to rising fuel costs and an expanded lineup.

Chambers was unsure where the budget could be cut and still retain its grandeur and appeal.

“It’s pretty bare bones,” he said.

The festival relies on funds from donors such as Matt Nichols, who has donated to the festival since its creation.

“It’s all about family, God and country,” he said. “It gets back to basics.”

Despite a budget shortfall, Nichols was confident the organizers would raise enough money to end in the black, whether from a new sponsor or donations from spectators and the community.

“They have a very good balance in their system,” Nichols said. “It always seems to come together.”

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