Future uncertain: Fireworks fizzling out

By Grace Harrison
Special to the Sun


Photos by Dan Ocampo (Top) and Neil C Radimaker (Bottom) / KV Sun File Photos
For the past 22 years, the Kern River Chamber of Commerce has entertained tourists and locals alike with the annual Firework Extravaganza.
However, the tradition’s future is uncertain due to a lack of funds.
Top: “Katie Blanco, of Bakersfield, sits back near French Gulch to watch the fireworks display.”
This photo is from the July 8, 1998 edition of the Kern Valley Sun and showcases the Chamber’s second annual fireworks display.
Right: Fireworks light up the sky above Engineer Point on Saturday, June 30, 2018.

On Saturday, July 6, 2019, Kern River Valley residents and tourists alike will fill the shoreline and campgrounds of Isabella Lake to watch the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Firework Extravaganza. However, a sense of uncertainty will fill the smoky yet colorful sky as the future of this annual tradition is all but clear.

In 1997, the Kern River Valley Chamber began launching fireworks over the lake from Engineer Point. Prior to that the Wofford Heights Improvement Group, better known as WHIG, hosted a Fourth of July fireworks event at Wofford Heights Park. “The fireworks are just a traditional way to celebrate our nation’s birthday,” says Judy Hyatt, President of the Chamber.

Besides planning for the big night, the Chamber also plans activities throughout the day to keep community members and tourists busy until the sun sets. This year, a BBQ and activities such as face painting and a whip cream diving contest will take place at Tank Park in Lake Isabella from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. According to Hyatt, if the wind cooperates, fireworks will be on track to begin at 9 p.m. The show will last anywhere from twenty to twenty-five minutes.

“What we’ve discovered is that the people coming in from out of town don’t even know we’re having fireworks,” explained Hyatt when asked about the possibility of this year’s firework show being the last. “Before we get to the last, I’d like to say how expensive it is,” she explained. According to Hyatt, the price of next year’s fireworks is $24,000 with half of that being due in December as a deposit. The additional $12,000 would be needed six months later. Two thousand dollars would need to be raised each month in order to reach that goal.

“If the community wants to follow the tradition, they are going to need to raise more money,” Hyatt said who went on to explain the different ways both residents and tourists alike could help raise funds. One of those options includes a tax-deductible donation available through the Chamber’s 501(c)3 status.

Hyatt put it simply: “The local people seem to love this, but they’re not willing to support it with their money.”

For more information about the Fireworks Extravaganza or to find out how to donate towards the fireworks fund please contact the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce at 760-379-5236.