Rescuing Northfield’s 4th of July celebration

In last week’s Nfld News: Fourth of July fest struggles for funds.

Dan Freeman thought fund-raising for a Fourth of July celebration would be like asking people to sign off on apple pie and baseball. But with less than three weeks to go before the festivities, Freeman finds himself less than a third of the way to his fundraising goal of $15,000.

What can be done? Can the CVB/Chamber step up to the plate? Individual donors? The City?

Below are the three photo albums from last year’s event.



  1. Mary Rossing said:

    There are jars distributed around town where individuals can drop checks. You may also send checks to 4th of July committee, PO Box 75, NorthfieId MN 55057. I think the fireworks alone usually cost more than $10,000. The money raised is all donated by service organizations, businesses and private citizens. So… if you like fireworks, please donate soon.

    Personally it seems like this should be something that is important enough to the greater citizenry of Northfield that there could be some money budgeted for it by our elected officials. (One less consultant or legal bill could get us much of the way there!) But how about $1.00 added to each water bill to go toward a community celebrations fund? If there are approx. 4,000 households in Northfield (just guessing) then that would be $48,000 annually for the 4th of July, the Taste of Northfield, etc. Quality of life? You bet!

    June 21, 2008
  2. Anne Bretts said:

    Since this keeps coming up, wouldn’t it be good for there to be a team of partner groups committed to sharing the fundraising? The Chamber could do one event, the NDDC, the Rotary, the Key, heck, even the kids at the Booker events or the soccer fields could have penny jars. Surely the DJJD folks could make room for a table for a raffle or bake sale. The amount each group would have to raise would be small enough to make the projects fun instead of a burden. If you had 10 groups raising $1000 each and the city kicking in $5,000 you’d be set.
    This would have a triple benefit of sharing the responsibility, promoting the event all year and really making it a community celebration.

    June 21, 2008
  3. john george said:

    Mary- As far as adding a surcharge to the utility bills to pay for the fireworks, it seems this would be a literal demonstration of our tax dolloars going up in smoke.

    June 22, 2008
  4. John Thomas said:


    Why would you want to stick it to the resident homeowners to fund this? Not just homeowners enjoy this show. Tourists, renters, and others do as well.

    Why couldn’t we use some of those Lodging taxes to fund this? It is a tourism event as well as a local event. I am sure we draw visitors to our event. Personally, I think the city should pass a resolution to take $10K – $15K per year from the lodging tax to fund this.

    Personally, I have already donated to the jars, and fully support the cause, but to just stick it to the resident homeowners again and again is not the right thing to do.

    How about you rope off a prime viewing area, and charge admission? You charge $2 a head to get the first one off the ground… (bad pun) then a $1 a year per head there after, so that the fund keeps refilling itself. You could bid out the rights for a beer & beverage concession, as well as food vendors, and use those proceeds to finance the show.

    You could do a couple of VIP areas, as well some advertising in the programs.

    With the right group of project managers and organizers, this could be a great event. There just needs to be a team of dedicated folks that want to get it done, much like the DJJD committee.

    Personally, I think fund raising should be a year-round thing for this event.

    The Volunteer fire department could do a “pass the boot” checkpoint on Division street at 5th and Division, or some other fund raiser. There are many ways to raise funds other than setting jars out. 😎

    June 22, 2008
  5. John Thomas said:


    I re-read your first post…

    We are in agreement that the city should step up to the plate on this… I just disagree that it should be a tax or fee on the homeowners.

    June 22, 2008
  6. Jane Moline said:

    I agree with John Thomas that this is a great application of the Tourism funds. They could budget so much, and the rest could be raised by food booths, if someone wants to do that, too.

    Another tax for this event is just too much, expecially when the tourism and visitors bureau has funds accumulating.

    The DJJD committee works year-round on the celebration–you cannot imagine the number of volunteer hours this requires. Every not-for-profit group pitches in, and for most it is their major fund-raising for the year. Most of the volunteers have full-time jobs and put in many many hours in order to raise funds for their organization or working directly for the committee. One of those volunteers is Dan Freeman, who also volunteers many hours for the Historical Society and the 4th of July celebration.

    The downtown business people put in hours, hire extra staff and volunteer for events like the “Taste of Northfield”. All of them, along with every business, is repeatedly asked for donations. I bet they get a donation request AT LEAST twice a week. What little profit they have from their business is gone quickly if they give it away. They voluntarily sell DJJD buttons, they have the jars for collecting for the 4th of July, and we all want them to have their stores open more hours.

    Everyone of the groups mentioned by Anne already have to raise funds for their own causes. They all put in many, many hours, and most of their members also contribute generously, while working or going to school. The 4th of July celebrations we have had the last few years have been a lot of fun AND a lot of work–it is nearly impossible for these groups to refocus their efforts away from their own causes in order to help out the 4th of July. It is not that they are unwilling. They are just a bit worn out.

    It is a little bit like asking the Heart Fund or March of Dimes or Multiple Sclerosis Society to give to the 4th of July. If they can raise funds, they use them for their cause, not to give to another cause. The firemen need to raise funds for new fire trucks, and they put in their hours keeping the fireworks display safe–we keep asking the same volunteers and the same businesses for more and more donations.

    I think this is a great application of the tourism funds. All of the taxpayers that support it could be listed as 4th of July sponsors (the hotels, etc.).

    June 22, 2008
  7. Anne Bretts said:

    Actually, Jane, I’m not asking anyone to do more work, just to think about how the 4th of July fits into the city’s other great events and fundraising efforts. Once again, a simple Google search shows there are many examples of how successful celebrations come together.
    Many communities take a community-wide approach to the 4th of July–and many struggle from year to year trying to stabilize funding for fireworks. Often, the city pays for part, usually through park and rec, with the Chamber and businesses and individual donors paying part. Some make it a festival, not unlike DJJD here, with lots of activities over several days.
    One approach would be to make the 4th of July here another separate festival, competing with all the others for corporate sponsors. I just thought that might be more of a strain than a cooperative approach. Another might be to make the Taste of Northfield part of the event, or the kick off to a week or month of events leading from the college reunions up to the 4th. It could be just a matter of repackaging and cross-promoting events, with CVB taking the lead in promoting.
    How about “Come Home to Northfield” month, with a special local parade of homes with prizes to make buyers feel wanted, walking tours of downtown, churches holding their congregation picnics, group rummage sales, the Taste of Northfield, etc., etc. The idea isn’t about making more work, but coordinating the work being done to maximize its effectiveness. The promotion could start with fliers and invitations during graduation weekends and continue through the month. It would be a community version of ArtSwirl, pulling many smaller events into a bigger one.
    As for asking organizations to help…Rotary is a service organization and raising money for good causes is part of its mission. You could argue that the NDDC and Chamber should be participating in funding already. I would consider CVB funding, but only as part of thorough budget process to determine the highest priorities and mostly to cover promotion. (You could argue it should fund DJJD as a tourism event, etc…)
    I’m not asking the March of Dimes to take money from health crises to fund fireworks. But it might make sense for The Key to run some event, say a battle of the bands or a dance at the pool, and keep some money while providing some for the 4th.
    It could mean more money for everyone for about the same amount of work done now.

    June 23, 2008
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    I could be wrong but I don’t think CVB/tourism can be used to pay for stuff like fireworks or musician fees. But the funds could be used to promote the 4th of July or other event to out-of-towners.

    June 23, 2008
  9. Eric Sieger said:

    Good luck to Dan and everyone in raising the money to make this happen. We’re trying to raise money in Dundas for our parks, and this isn’t an easy time to raise money.

    One idea that was mentioned earlier that I’ve seen work is to “pass the hat.” There is a great fireworks display in Silverton, Colo. It’s the largest fireworks display on the western slope of the state, and it’s amazing. It’s a town of about 500 people, so there aren’t enough businesses or individuals to fund such an event. Instead, the volunteer fire dept. collects donations from cars as they leave town/viewing areas, and they have more than enough money to pay for the fireworks. People come from all over to witness these fireworks (imagine the sound of 16″ shells ricocheting off the Rocky Mountains and fireworks exploding over the mountain vistas) but this tiny town uses all individual donations to make it happen.

    Just an idea!

    June 23, 2008
  10. Mary Rossing said:

    You are right, Griff. CVB money is for promoting Northfield and its offerings to perspective visitors out of town, not for supporting the events in town. Their objective is to fill the beds and put feet on the street.

    Regarding fundraising, it is just plain hard. I just don’t realize how much of the burden for funding events falls on the businesses in this town, and my idea about sharing it with the households was just a reaction to this. Voluntary donations are much better, of course. But how many people take the time and the effort to do this unless it is either mandatory or if they are asked directly. I just think that it would come as a surprise to most citizens that the city doesn’t pay for the 4th of July fireworks and then they would ask “why not?”

    June 23, 2008
  11. Good point, Mary. I do not think very many people realize that the Northfield Historical Society had stepped up to the plate to deliver the hometown-flavored July 4th celebrations the last few years. The city has probably gotten the credit. NHS deserves thanks for having taken this on in the past. Now someone else (together with go-getter Dan Freeman) needs to step up to the plate.

    June 24, 2008
  12. David Koenig said:

    Use this as an opportunity to promote the bike race in town, local dining, “stay the night in Northfield” and the Fireworks are like a beacon light, advertising Northfield. Well, the latter might be a stretch, but it is certainly conceivable that CVB money could be used to market all of the 4th of July activities as a reason to come visit Northfield that day.

    Isn’t this another reason to put CVB money up for competing ideas on its use?

    June 24, 2008
  13. John S. Thomas said:

    I am just concerned that there is so much “We can’t spend the CVB money on that!” going on, that no CVB money is being spent on anything at all…

    June 24, 2008
  14. John S. Thomas said:

    Ok, here is the city code:

    Sec. 74-67. Use of proceeds.
    (a) At least 95 percent of the gross proceeds obtained from the collection of taxes pursuant to this article shall be used to fund a local convention or tourism bureau for the purpose of marketing and promoting the city as a tourist or convention center. The remainder of the proceeds may be deposited in the city’s general fund or in any other fund as may be designated from time to time by the city council.

    So… why cannot the 5% be specifically allocated by the city for the July 4th fireworks? Where does it go now? Right into the general fund… I say it should go somewhere where it can be spent towards tourist and special events such as this.

    June 24, 2008
  15. David Ludescher said:

    John: I think that the general consensus among the CVB and merchants is that the celebration if for townsfolk, not tourists. The events do not get “feet in the street”.

    June 24, 2008
  16. Barb Kuhlman said:

    Ed and I have been part of the 4th of July flea market in Ames Park since its inception several years ago. We’ve had lots of people traveling on Hwy 3 stop after seeing the flea market in the park. Many people from other small towns are out looking for something to do, and many small towns don’t have their own fireworks. Why not promote the “July 4th Hometown Celebration” as a destination for “local” tourists? It’s a celebration with a nostalgic, small town feeling, one that people with young kids can enjoy, and you don’t have to drive to the “city” to get there.

    June 25, 2008
  17. I was not going to get involved in this conversation but, I just have to say from being involved with the 4th for the past 3 years, people from out of town do come Northfield for the event. The celebration is on the same day as the bike race, and increasingly those people are staying in Northfield to listen to the music, eat food, enjoy the fireworks and shop downtown. In talking with many restaurants last year they were running out of food. I was at the Cow and they had no salad left! So the restaurants are doing well.

    I would talk to people and they would tell me that they are from Faribault, Lonsdale, Farmington, Lakeville, etc….It does bring people to town; it just does not put them in the hotels.

    June 25, 2008
  18. Vicki Dennis said:

    I like the idea of passing the hat at the festivities, but I suspect that the companies who put on these types of displays want to be paid in advance.

    Are there any civic/politically active extracurricular groups at NHS? (We had Young Republicans and Young Democrats in my high school, eons ago.) If so, it would be a great nonpartisan thing to work together to sponsor this event. It’s difficult to think of anything more quintessentially American than July Fourth fireworks.

    June 25, 2008
  19. I think both of the colleges could pay for the fireworks.

    June 26, 2008
  20. I suppose the colleges could contribute toward fireworks as a matter of community goodwill, but most of the students are gone and Carleton just had its own fireworks for alumni weekend.

    June 26, 2008

Leave a Reply