Few step forward to save Pardeeville’s Fourth of July celebration

October 28, 2018 GMT

PARDEEVILLE — A Fourth of July celebration that brings thousands of people to Pardeeville won’t happen if people don’t step up now.

Dian Hawley can’t put it any plainer than that.

Maybe it will take cancellation of the traditional parade and fireworks to make people care, said Hawley, one of four members of the Pardeeville Fourth of July board of directors — all of whom say they’re ready to hand the reins over to somebody else.

“I hate to say it, but nothing will fire up people like nothing going on and nobody on the streets,” Hawley said.

An informational meeting Thursday about the board’s activities drew a sparse audience of five — three of them current board members.

Nina Grasse said she can’t be on the board, but is willing to oversee the Fourth of July parade, as she has for the last two years.

Village President Bob Becker, also a board member, said he’s heard from a few people who are willing to help with Fourth of July events, but who are not willing to sit on the board or be an officer for the nonprofit organization.

Jane Gerondale of Pardeeville attended Thursday’s meeting, and afterward said she supports continuation of the Pardeeville Independence Day festivities.

“It’s always nice to have all those people come to town,” she said.

However, she said she’s not sure about volunteering for the board, because “I’ve never done this before.”

Adam Milkowski, who also attended the meeting, said his hesitation stems from his past experience of overseeing the parade.

“My kids used to say, ‘It’s the Fourth of July, and Dad will be busy,’” he said.

Asked if he would serve on the board, Milkowski replied, “We’ll see.”

This is not the first time the Fourth of July celebration has been in jeopardy due to a shortage of volunteers.

In 2009, 2011 and 2013, planners said early in the year that the events — which always are held on July 4 — might not happen.

In the midst of a catastrophic drought in 2012, the fireworks were canceled in Pardeeville and throughout the area due to fire danger.

In 2013, the noon parade was the only event. Fireworks and afternoon events in Chandler Park were canceled.

But in the last 26 years, Hawley said, outright cancellation of all Pardeeville Fourth of July events happened only once, in 1998. Becker said Thursday a lack of volunteers was the key factor for that cancellation.

Becker said there are dozens of clans with origins in the Pardeeville area who plan their family reunions around the Fourth of July, so the extended family can enter a float in the parade.

Hawley said other activities offered in the past — including food stands, a beer tent, live music and fireworks, all in Chandler Park — have drawn numerous visitors.

In past years, multiple community organizations shared the work of overseeing July 4 events — organizations such as the Pardeeville Area Fire Department, the Pardeeville Area Business Association and the now-defunct Jaycees.

Hawley said she has asked for help from individuals and organizations, so far to no avail.

But the committee is holding out hope that people will step forward next week.

The Pardeeville Fourth of July Board is scheduled to meet again Thursday, with the goal of seating at least three board members and electing officers.

According to the board’s bylaws, at least three people must be on the board, and the board must have a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer, though one person can hold two offices.

Some of the things board members do include preparing for the event months in advance — acquiring fireworks, securing insurance, working with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to use highways 22 and 44 as part of the parade route, and blocking streets during the parade.

Becker said people also are needed to decorate the park and clean it up afterward. And, if a live band is hired, and a cover charge is needed to pay the performers and several people will be needed to collect payments, he said.

Planning the events requires a lot more time than the weeks just before Independence Day, Hawley said.

“I start in April or May, and for sure, it’s all that I think about,” she said.