Federal budget cuts kept the Blue Angels from appearing at Seattle's Seafair last weekend. But rest assured: There will be planes roaring across the sky at Freedom Fair this Fourth of July. They just may not rattle as many windowpanes as they did last year.
“The air show itself is still going to be a spectacular show. The one thing that's going to be missing is the military support – the big, thunderous jets that they usually bring,” said Gary Grape, director of events for Tacoma Events Commission, the mostly volunteer group that runs Freedom Fair.
Tacoma's big Independence Day celebration is expected to draw more than 100,000 revelers to Tacoma's Ruston Way Waterfront on July 4 for the air show, music, food, libations and, of course, fireworks.
“We're one of the few areas that still has an air show and a fireworks display of this magnitude,” said Lori Linenko, who took over as the commission’s chairwoman and president after longtime director Doug Miller stepped down last fall.
Government cutbacks and sagging donations have presented challenges for many summer festivals. But organizers say Freedom Fair has bounced back, if only slightly, after an uncertain 2012.
Freedom Fair costs about $900,000 to produce each year, according to Grape. Toward that end, Tacoma Events Commission – a non-profit 501(c)3 hired by City of Tacoma to run the event – receives lots of “in kind donations,” pledges of free advertising and services provided by Tacoma Police, Tacoma Public Works and other agencies that would otherwise add up to $700,000 to $750,000.
Then the commission must come up with another $200,000 to pay for fireworks and other entertainment. That seemed like an especially shaky proposition this time last year with donations lagging and no title sponsor to foot the bulk of the bill. In the end, Tacoma Events Commission managed to put the festival on without significantly scaling back, but there briefly were discussions about discontinuing the event altogether.
“The last couple of years have really been tough,” said Grape. “Not that it hasn't been tough this year, but a lot of pocket books are opening up more than they have in the past few years. Just that the Emerald Queen is considering being a major sponsor is a real plus; and we have a few grant foundations that we've never been able to tap into.”
“We're still nailing down some of the sponsorships that said they would help us,” Linenko said. “Some of the sponsors who have given generously before have scaled back due to the economy, and we don't have the funding we once did to cover (the budget.) So we are asking people to give generously and donate in hopes that we can rekindle some of the relationships that we had lost in the past and develop new relationships.”
Tacoma Events has set up a Paypal account to solicit donations online at http://www.freedomfair.com. Donors that give $45 can join the Freedom Fair Fan Club and gain VIP privileges on July 4. And while there is officially no entry fee to attend Freedom Fair, organizers are requesting that attendees voluntarily contribute when they arrive, with a suggested donation of $2 to $15.
“If we continue the way we have been, I have no doubt we'll be back in 2014,” Linenko said.
A partial schedule of events Freedom Fair events, which will take place July 4 along Ruston Way Waterfront except where indicated:
Tacoma Air Show (1:30-3:30 p.m.): This year's flight demos will include appearances by the Ace Maker T-33 Shooting Star, the P-51 “Speedball Alice” and other classic aircraft.
Freedom Fair Fireworks Extravaganza (10:10 p.m.): “Bombs” will burst in air, flags will still be there and the fireworks soundtrack will be broadcast from Les Davis Pier, audible on Click-FM (98.9) and KLAY-AM (1180) for those watching from a distance.
America BE Strong Stage at Camp Patriot (adjacent to the Lobster Shop, 4015 Ruston Way): Featuring Duffy Owens and Rev Denial (11 a.m.), Michael Crain Band (noon), Tony La Stella & the Goombas performing “America Be Strong” (3:30 p.m.), Rural Route 3 (6 p.m.), Shambala (8 p.m.)
Duke's Chowder House Blues Stage (3327 Ruston Way): Featuring performances by Maia Santell and House Blend (noon); Back to Beale Street blues competition finalists Palmer Junction (3:30 p.m.), Crazy Texas Gypsies (4:45 p.m.), Cody Rentas Band (6 p.m.) and Randy Oxford Band (7:15 p.m.); and a Memphis All-Star Jam (8:30 p.m.) Cars from the Road and Custom Car Show will also be on display from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Katie Downs Stage (3211 Ruston Way): Featuring alumni from Ted Brown Music Outreach's Live It Out Loud youth program, Destination Unknown, Fistful of Dollars and Insuburban Avenue (staring at 11:30 a.m.), Midnight Rambler (Rolling Stones tribute, 3 p.m.) and Northwest garage-rock super-group, Freddie & the Screamers (6 p.m.)
Ram Bighorn Stage (3001 Ruston Way): Featuring BMX bike shows (11:30 a.m. and 1:15, 3:30, 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.) and music from the Adventurers (noon), Staxx Brothers (2 p.m.), Spike from Spike & the Impalers and the Fabulous Johnsons (4 p.m.), Rokkerbox (6 p.m.) and Blues Brothers Revue (8 p.m.)
Worthy Music Ministries Stage (Dickman Mill Park): With performances by Martin Henry Project (11 a.m.); Jasmine Fuller (12:15 p.m.); Tiger & Sydney Paulsen (12:30 p.m.); Foxley (3:30 p.m.); Tony Easterly (4:45 p.m.); Upward Bound in the 5th Dimension (5:30 and 6:30 p.m.); Swing Low (6 p.m.); Toyin Adekal (8 p.m.); Stacy Shown (9 p.m.)
Music by the Bay Stage (Jack Hyde Park): With performances by Steve Cooley and the Dangerfields (5 p.m.), Victrola (6 p.m.), Charles Mack Band (7 p.m.), Tin Man (8 p.m.) and Cody Rentas Band (9 p.m.)
Congo Productions Drum Circle (2-8 p.m., the east end of Marine Park)
Freedom Fair Wings & Wheels (11 a.m. to 5 p.m., July 6, Tacoma Narrows Airport): This post-Freedom Fair aviation, car and motorcycle show will also feature vendors, food booths, military displays and other entertainment. Admission is $15 for adults, $5 for kids, ages 6 to 17 and free for children ages 5 and under.
For more information, visit http://www.freedomfair.com.