Independence Day fireworks show will go on in Visalia

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Rawhide Ballclub, radio stations plan clean up day, day-long event at Recreation Park along with annual fireworks show at the stadium on July 3
By Reggie Ellis @Reggie_SGN
VISALIA – Visalia will continue its tradition of hosting a fireworks show by adding to an existing one.
At its May 20 meeting, the Visalia City Council approved $17,000 for an Independence Day event that will add a clean up of Recreation Park, free entertainment, and fundraising opportunities for local community groups to the Visalia Rawhide Ballclub’s annual fireworks show.
Vice Mayor Steve Nelsen, who normally opposes spending money on the annual fireworks show, said bringing the event back to downtown and making it more about cleaning up one of the city’s most important parks is a more appropriate use of city funds than helping a non-profit to buy fireworks.
“I’m concerned when we spend public funds and blow it up for fireworks,” Nelsen said. “In this case we are using the funds for Recreation Park and the Rawhide are going to blow up their money for the fireworks.”
For the last few years, the city-funded fireworks show has been held at Groppetti Community Stadium on the eastern edge of the city. This year it will be an all-day event on Wednesday, July 3 in lieu of the Independence Day holiday on the following day and will incorporate the entire block of land which is home to Rawhide Ballpark, Recreation Park, Providence Skate Park, and the Anthony Community Center. The event is a partnership between the City of Visalia, Momentum Broadcasting (KJUG 106.7, Hitz 104.9, My 97.5), Spirit 88.9, and the Visalia Rawhide Ballclub.
“There is meaning behind this event and the three of us believe that,” said Marina Rojas, spokesperson for 88.9.
The event will kick off at noon with a free swim session at the Redwood High School swimming pool, presented by Spirit 88.9. Food vendors will be available as well. As the pool area shuts down at 4 p.m., the gates to Recreation Park will open. Available activities will include live music, deejay, inflatable games, playground, basketball courts, a skateboarding competition, and food & drink vendors. At 6 p.m., Rawhide Ballpark will open its gates to those who have a ticket togame that night versus the San Jose Giants. After the conclusion of the Rawhide game, a celebratory fireworks show will be displayed for all to see.
Councilmember Phil Cox said he was in favor of the event but was worried about the liability of removing homeless from the park following the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that it is “cruel and unusual punishment” to force a homeless person from staying in a park overnight unless there is a low barrier shelter available to them. Attorney Ken Richardson said if the park is closed, police officers can force people off of the land. Cox said he was also concerned with volunteers walking through a park that could be potentially hazardous to their health.
“This is a commercially contaminated site,” Cox said. “They will have to do an industrial clean up so those items are removed before the general public comes.”
Assistant city manager Leslie Caviglia said Recreation Park would be closed to the public a week before the event beginning at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 26. The City would use some of its $5,000 in in-kind services to remove hazardous materials from the park, such as needles, feces, and narcotics. Local organizations and individual volunteers would be invited to do a community clean up, such as repainting, plantings, and disinfecting playground equipment through Friday, June 31. The in-kind donation would also be used for police officers to clear out homeless people staying in the park and redirect them to the Visalia Rescue Mission.
On Monday, July 1, the park would be fenced off in order for the radio stations and Rawhide to begin setting up for the main event on July 3. The day of the event will begin at 7 a.m. with final set up. Free swim will be available from 12-4 p.m. at the Redwood High School pool. Recreation Park will open for the Visalia Freedom Celebration at 4 p.m. and include deejay, food booth, game, and other activities. There will be a skateboard contest at 5 p.m. and gates to the Rawhide game open at 6 p.m. with gametime at 8 p.m. There will be live music from 7 to 9 p.m. and a deejay from 9 to 10:30 p.m. when Recreation Park will close.
“This is really a great service to that part of the community,” Link said. “We really appreciate it.”
Tickets for the event will be available soon. There will be two tiers of tickets—a general admission ticket which will be free (although you must have a ticket to get in), and a VIP ticket available for $20 each. VIP tickets will have access to their own private seating area, their own restrooms, inflatable games, cooling mister station and food and drink vendors. Tickets will be available for purchase at www.RawhideBaseball.com, or anyone can listen to KJUG 106.7, Hitz 104.9, My 97.5, or Spirit 88.9 for the chance to win free VIP tickets. Complimentary general admission tickets will soon be available at partner location for pick-up.
Many fundraising opportunities are available at this event and the Visalia Freedom Celebration is looking for interested partners. If you would like more information about the opportunities available, there will be an informational session on Wednesday, May 22 from 12 to 1 p.m. at Rawhide Ballpark. After that, information will be available online. Sponsorship opportunities are also available and can be received through any of the Visalia Freedom Celebration committee members.
A portion of the proceeds from this event will go to benefit the Momentum Broadcasting Kids to College Project (See story on Education page). The goal of the Kids to College Project is to send 1,000 Visalia Unified School District students plus a parent on a day trip to one of California’s nationally and internationally recognized post-secondary academic institutions. The Project will provide transportation, chaperons, food and beverage, and coordination with each of the institutional partners in the program at no cost to the participating students.