Celebration Committee member Walter Ruehlig said they’ve raised about $55,000 of the $70,000 necessary for a grand party on America’s birthday. Originally, organizers targeted $65,000, but recently decided to expand July 4 offerings to include tree lightings in Rivertown.
The plans call for a parade, car show, kid zone, vendors, food, live music and fireworks. The aerial blasts are the high-ticket item, and Ruehlig said the committee has already placed a $10,000 deposit on fireworks. Antioch hasn’t been able to afford fireworks since 2009, the final year the city was able to subsidize the celebration.
“I think they’re going above and beyond,” Mayor Jim Davis said. “They’re working every angle they can come up with. It really is the most American of all of our American holidays and it’s certainly something that we need to move forward on.”
The car show and kid attractions open at 5 p.m., the parade kicks off at 7 p.m., and fireworks light up the sky at 9:30 p.m.
The committee is trying to raise roughly $5,000 more from Antioch businesses and $10,000 more from residents. If organizers fall short as July approaches, they’ll go door-to-door, reaching out to Antioch business owners. The goal is to throw a bash at no cost to the city.
The money raised goes toward fireworks, police officers to serve as security, plus cleanup and supplies. Ruehlig credited the fundraising totals thus far to the hard work of committee members such as Antioch Unified School District Board Vice President Joy Motts and former City Councilwoman Martha Parsons.
While $10,000 seems like a high hurdle, Ruehlig is asking residents to give only what they can afford – “$4 for the 4th” being the fundraising motto. The committee recently launched a website, www.antiochjuly4th.com, where those interested can read more about the celebration and use PayPal to donate to the cause. Donations may also be dropped off at or mailed to the Antioch Chamber of Commerce, 101 H St., Unit 4.
Ruehlig has been pleasantly surprised by the response from the community. “We’re asking for $4 a family, but we seem to be getting much more than that when people donate,” he said. “We’re doing well. It exceeded my expectations by far. I’ve been very surprised. We still have a number of corporate people we’ve spoken to who are considering a donation. There’s a number of big players that we’re waiting on.”
The celebration could give a boost to Antioch’s downtown area, as the fireworks show will be the only one in the area on July 4. Pittsburg, another East County city with a pyrotechnical history, suspended its fireworks show in 2010.
When the Antioch Fourth of July celebration was still partially funded by the city, fireworks were included. But as the economy soured, Antioch could no longer afford the event. The city held a scaled-back parade at Somersville Towne Center in 2010 that left many residents hungry for more.
Last year, organizers brought the parade back to Rivertown, but fireworks were still too expensive. Before the last flag was folded that day, Ruehlig, Motts, Parsons and other prominent residents started fundraising for a 2012 fireworks display.
The city’s annual event typically draws anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 spectators. Now that Antioch’s will be the only fireworks in the area, Ruehlig and Davis believe the event could attract more folks from around East County.
“That just goes to show you what can be done with volunteers – people who really take an interest in the community,” Davis said. “It can be done. People just coming together, getting the support from the community and the corporate world and it’s happening; it’s just phenomenal.”