Opinion: Celebration aims to make you proud to call Elk River home

The second annual Elk River Independence Day program and fireworks show at Lions Park is shaping up to be another great community celebration.

The fireworks show will be spectacular. As chair of the Elk River Independence Day Committee, I can promise you that.

But it’s my sincere hope that the fellowship between family, friends, neighbors and fellow community members will be as brilliant as the pyrotechnics. I think it’s important to note again the way this program and celebration have been assembled has been through wonderful collaboration and partnership of the very same people who often work behind the scenes to make this place a great place to live and raise a family.

There will be many groups, people and organizations represented at this second-time event, and if this style of Independence Day celebration is able to continue in the future that list will only grow. It’s our committee’s belief that by working together something really special can come of this community celebration — something that will be evident long after the debris from the fireworks display has been cleaned up.

It might show up in ways as innocuous as pancake breakfasts not falling on the same weekend as one another. Little things like that can make a big difference to groups trying find their way in a community that cares about kids but inadvertently create competing interests.

This event, if it goes as planned, should also inspire our youth. They are a big part of this great big community get-together.

There is an alumni jazz band from Elk River High School that has formed for this very event. Some of its members will be winners of the high school’s Louie Armstrong Award, given annually to the top jazz band student.

Little children who see them perform might be inspired take up an instrument or refocus their efforts on the long hours of practice it takes to reach high levels of excellence.

If things go well for this group calling itself the Elk River Red White and Blue Elk River High School Alumni Jazz Band, I would love to see a wonderful tradition forming whereby band families gather annually under the umbrella of the Independence Day holiday to picnic, enjoy some music and take in a fireworks show before going home — whether home remains here in Elk River or becomes some other community or state.

The Elk River Community Theatre and Elk River High School Theater programs are also embarking upon something great that will be on display at the Independence Day celebration.

Elk River will be one of only three locations in Minnesota to get the rights to produce “Phantom of the Opera.” Be sure to get your picture with the Phantom on the grounds of Lions Park and show your support for such an endeavor by buying tickets to the show.

The high school and community theater have taken a big risk joining hands like this, as it costs $7,000 just to purchase the rights to put on this show. We as a community need to fill Zabee Theater for each run of this show to help take each program to a higher level.

As you know from reading this newspaper, the Elk River Area Arts Alliance is working hard to acquire the old First National Bank building along the Mississippi River in downtown Elk River.

It’s easy to see — even in a down economy — Elk River is setting itself up for a bright future.

This brings me to another important point about the importance of raising $15,000 to launch fireworks that will burn up in the sky. The idea of spending this much money in times as hard as these cannot be frivolous.

It’s important we remember Independence Day for what it is — a celebration of our nation’s birthday. A celebration of our many freedoms. A celebration of our independence.

And a celebration of our ability — with our system of government as messy as it may be — to meet the needs of our own people in the communities where we live. A government “by the people” and “for the people.”

I believe we must not forget all those who have sacrificed for our freedom, and bless those who have served and continue to give their lives for our freedom.

So much can be accomplished by simply working together and recognizing our vested interest in helping one another succeed. In doing this we will glorify the strong convictions of the Founding Fathers who signed our nation’s Declaration of Independence.

Some of the pomp and circumstance planned at this program is designed to get us thinking about our roles in a community that meets needs of its children — from the smallest boys and girls to our class of 2012, the adults, the seniors, families, the veterans, the disabled and the list goes on.

We will have scouts gathered around a flag pole that pays homage to fallen Korean War veterans, including Ray Schwartz.

We will have local businesses and organizations providing food and beverages who have agreed to share mightily in their profits with the Elk River Independence Day Committee just so they can be part of the community.

We will have local youth organizations on the grounds helping out with games and activities, selling pop and water and keeping the park clean. These kids — from DECA, Boy and Girl Scouts, Young Life and possibly more — are going places. Show them your support.

We will have an alumni jazz band playing marches.

We will have the Elk River Honor Guard firing a three-round volley.

We will have a trio of actors from the Elk River Community Theatre dressed in period costumes to bring us back to the days of our beginning as a country.

We will have a cover band, comprised of local talent, providing the prelude to another phenomenal fireworks show.

And it is our hope that when you pile into your car, truck or SUV with yout family for the short ride home you feel good about the place you call home.

I know that I will, and I thank the countless people in this community who made that possible. — Jim Boyle, editor


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