Fireworks booster hopes the Fourth is strong with him
Some home remains for a July 4 show
KINGMAN - 2015 will be remembered as the year Kingman failed to celebrate Independence Day - unless a college student with lifelong ties to the city can pull off a miracle.
When Shawn Walsh first learned the Kingman City Council would not be able to fund a fireworks display, he decided to take action.
"I was raised in Kingman," he said a few weeks ago. "The annual fireworks show was one of the highlights of the year in Kingman and I didn't want today's kids to miss out on the fun I had," he said.
So Walsh reached out to the folks who run the Route 66 Motorsports Park near the Kingman Airport and Industrial Park, and they agreed to provide a venue for the show after the Mohave County Fairgrounds Board belatedly decided not to host the event this year.
A lawsuit was filed against the fair board, the city of Kingman and the Kingman Boomers, a now-defunct nonprofit comprised of citizens who collected donations to fund the show in 2012, 2013 and last year.
The 2013 show was marred when an assistant pyrotechnician suffered catastrophic injuries in a fireworks mishap. The incident led to the lawsuit, which was filed earlier this year.
When the fair board opted out of hosting the event, it left the City Council with no time to find a suitable venue. The bids were relevant to the fairgrounds, the only place in the city where larger fireworks can be used.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Council learned they don't even have time to put on a block party for the community.
Walsh, however, has been working with the city, the motorsports park and Acme Fireworks, which said it could put on the show on short notice.
The City Council learned that government's rules regarding bidding for services, procurement and other functions moves too slowly in some cases. Even if they could move faster, the city's shorthanded park staff could not handle a large community gathering on such short notice.
And then there is the issue of insurance, something that can't be ignored given the lawsuit, as well as questions of whether the city could legally pay the $25,000 the Council set aside to Acme when it already rejected bids from two other fireworks companies.
Still other concerns addressed whether the city could fund events that occur out of the city limits.
Vice Mayor Mark Wimpee answered that question when he reminded his colleagues the Council set aside $20,000 for Stetson Winery in Valle Vista last year as seed money for a bluegrass festival.
Wimpee was obviously Walsh's biggest supporter on the Council, and he had advice for the man. Wimpee told him to immediately contact Patrick Moore, chief of the Northern Arizona Consolidated Fire District, to work out logistics, and he also told him to get proof of insurance and contract details from Acme.
Walsh on Wednesday told the Miner he followed Wimpee's advice and the contract is on its way and a meeting with Moore was close to being arranged. Walsh also said he's in the process of forming a nonprofit with hopes the private sector can do quickly what the public sector cannot.
But there's still one more fly in the ointment.
The funding the Council pledged to the fireworks show was slated to come out of Tourism Development money.
The city's tourism commission will hold a special meeting, as yet unscheduled, to discuss whether a fireworks show is an appropriate use of that money.
City Attorney Carl Cooper lauded Walsh for his efforts, but he also said those efforts need to be stronger.
"This is something where all the ducks are in a row," said Cooper. "His ducks are not in a row."
With a little hard work and a lot of luck, Walsh might save the Fourth of July for Kingman.