Westosha Kiwanis not hosting fireworks this year in Paddock Lake

Photo by aconant via morgueFile.com

Club shifting spending from fireworks to more service for kids

The Kiwanis International website says that organization is “dedicated to improving the lives of children one community at a time.”

The Westosha-Salem Kiwanis Club is part of that network and a shift in its spending priorities will be clear to many this July 3 when there is no fireworks display over Paddock Lake.

For over a decade, the club has hosted a fireworks display over Paddock Lake. The Kiwanis Club has been the sponsor and funder of the display.

The fireworks display costs about $10,000 a year. The Westosha Kiwanis Club has always provided the bulk of the funds. At times, the Paddock Lake village government or more recently Festival Foods have made contributions, but the Kiwanis provided the majority of the money.

The Westosha Kiwanis Club has struggled to attract and keep members in recent years. Fewer members means less hands for fundraising.

After last year’s fireworks display, club members did some soul searching and decided to refocus the club’s efforts — and limited budget — on service projects for children, said Steve Bluemel, a spokesman for the club.

“With our club getting so much smaller, there’s only so much we could do,” Bluemel said. “Let’s do what we’re supposed to do best.”

That core mission, Bluemel said, is funding projects that focus on children. A recent example is the club donating $3,500 for extensive repairs to an electric wheelchair that allowed a local high school student to get around more independently than having to be pushed in a manual chair.

The club also has been successful in recent efforts to benefit local children with wishes through Make a Wish, Bluemel said.

The club also intends to step up its involvement in food distribution efforts at The Sharing Center and churches and local organizations that provide for the needy.

The annual Kiwanis fireworks display had become a tradition that brought hundreds of people to Paddock Lake, village officials acknowledged when the matter was discussed at a committee of the whole meeting in March. But they stress the display was always a project of the Kiwanis Club and its donors, never a village government financed event.

The village, which hosts a bike parade on July 4th, has made occasional donations to the Kiwanis fireworks from surplus funds at times. But no money was included in this year’s municipal budget to fund fireworks, especially as the primary sponsor, said village President Terry Burns. The village did not even know about the lack of 2019 fireworks until March.

A window into local sentiment among village residents for the village funding future fireworks might be a response on the village’s resident survey from last year. Asked if the village should contribute to the Kiwanis fireworks display, residents responded: yes 45 percent, no 55 percent.

Still Burns said he would be open to hearing from residents by budget writing time (August-September) if they support or oppose the village spending tax money on fireworks in the future.

“I would certainly welcome people to comment on it,” Burns said.

Given the constraints on village spending, money for a fireworks display would likely mean shifting money from other village spending, Burns said.

“Taxpayers would be ultimately paying for it,” Burns said.

The other major Fourth of July holiday fireworks display in Western Kenosha County is in Twin Lakes as part of Libertyfest, to be held June 29 this year. That display is paid for by the Twin Lakes Area Chamber and Business Association. The fireworks display at Bristol Progress is funded by the independent community group that runs that festival. The Salem Lakes Village Board recently approved a contract for $10,000 for a fireworks display at its Summer Beats event in August.

Burns and Bluemel both said they are willing to consider helping fund some kind of coalition of groups that might bring back the fireworks display with smaller contributions from a group of organizations sharing the cost more evenly than when the Kiwanis Club paid for the bulk of the project.

While no fireworks bursting over Paddock Lake this year will be a big change, Bluemel said he is comfortable the Kiwanis Club is making the right move.

“We are really sad about it, but our money is going to better places,” Bluemel said.

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