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Little South Whidbey Kiwanis fireworks stand delivers big bang over 40 years

Don Lamontagne, a member of the South Whidbey Kiwanis Club, tapes pennant bunting to the trailer at Ken’s Korner in Clinton on Wednesday. Sales average $40,000 for the nonprofit.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Don Lamontagne, a member of the South Whidbey Kiwanis Club, tapes pennant bunting to the trailer at Ken’s Korner in Clinton on Wednesday. Sales average $40,000 for the nonprofit.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Four decades has allowed the South Whidbey Kiwanis group to collect a lot of memories and even more moolah from running a fireworks stand in Clinton. Ben Watanabe / The Record | Theron Colby, 8, holds a package of fireworks at the South Whidbey Kiwanis stand at Ken’s Korner in Clinton.

On Wednesday, the non-profit group committed to helping children was back at it, setting up the trailer that houses about 75 cases’ worth of sparklers and ground blooms and mortars and a sinister-looking 16-shot box called “YOU Da’ MAN.”

For a pair of Kiwanians who have helped run the stand for several years, some memories are getting as hazy as the night sky around Independence Day on Whidbey Island. Ron Myers, the past club president and the current regional president in charge of several Kiwanis clubs around Western Washington, recalled that the stand never sold a $600 package of fireworks. His comrade at the booth disagreed. Don Lamontagne said not only did it sell every year, but some years they had to order a second one for an eager customer.

The truth existed somewhere between their stances. Liz Lisicich, the TNT Fireworks sales area manager in charge of the Whidbey stands, has worked with the South Whidbey Kiwanis since she started in the fireworks business. She said the larger packages sell some years, and sit on the shelf on others.

Either way, the two Kiwanis agreed that their stand is a major attraction between late June and July 5.

“We have a following you would not believe,” Myers said. “We have one guy — you think I’m going to put you on — he backs his truck up and starts ordering. He’ll leave after $1,500.”

In front of the trailer, the Kiwanis has a white board with handwritten notes of what fireworks money sponsors.

Over 40 years of operating the fireworks stand for eight days a year on South Whidbey, the club has generated about $500,000 for its philanthropic endeavors. Fireworks sales have funded everything from the Holiday House and back-to-school boxes of school supplies to college scholarships and high school student trips to the Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership conference. Kiwanis’ donations have made a serious mark on South Whidbey’s young people.

The stand has averaged around $40,000 in sales the past few years, though Myers said most of that money comes in between two days: July 3 and July 4. He and fellow Kiwanians would prefer seeing a more even distribution of sales, but they’ll take the money when they can — just not before the state allows them to sell on June 27, despite several people popping by while they set up and stocked shelves a couple of days before.

Lisicich said the Clinton Kiwanis stand has a strong sales record for its area’s population. It may not be the top seller, she said, but the Kiwanis has lots of support from Whidbey Island residents.

“They have the community support,” she said. “They do quite well.”

The stand, open daily, has gone through its first 75 cases in years past. Myers said they expected to order another 25 or so before the selling season ends.

One of the reasons for a late surge in sales, according to the Kiwanis, is that people stockpile fireworks for New Year’s Eve because the Kiwanis does not open their stand again after July 5.

 

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