The council also officially sanctioned a new show at the Fairgrounds being put on by ilani Casino
CLARK COUNTY — In its entire history, Fort Vancouver was never fired upon. It may have felt like history was made, then, this past month when Clark County Councilor Julie Olson and ilani Casino officials announced that there would be a new fireworks show this year, held at the Clark County Fairgrounds.
For most of the past 57 years, Fort Vancouver has been the location of what was once dubbed the biggest fireworks show “west of the Mississippi.” That’s debatable these days, but Independence Day at the Fort remains the largest fireworks show in Clark County. At least until July 4 when ilani promises a top notch show at the Fairgrounds.
But Olson, whose district includes the Fairgrounds and the casino, insists that this is not about competing with The Historic Trust, which now puts on the fireworks show at the Fort. The idea began two years ago after a wayward firework started some bushes outside Olson’s house on fire. That experience prompted a conversation about limited fireworks use in the county. Ultimately, the council settled on limited usage and sales times for fireworks.
“It’s not a secret that if it were up to me, we would ban these aerial fireworks that are turning our neighborhoods into war zones, in my view,” Olson told the county council on Tuesday. “But I lost that battle. And that’s okay. That’s the way things work. But as a result of that, it got me thinking about the conversations we had last year about community, about what the Fourth of July means and how we celebrate it respectfully and safely.”
Olson says she approached representatives of Ridgefield, Battle Ground, and La Center, along with ilani and other corporate sponsors to see if there was any interest in a north county fireworks show.
“And to a single person, they were all in favor generally of the idea,” says Olsen. “So at that point, we’re like, ‘Okay, well now what do we do?’”
The next step was the formation of a nonprofit committee last Fall and the eventual move to announce Fourth at the Fairgrounds, a move made official by a council resolution approved on Tuesday.
“I do want to make it real clear that we’re not competing with any of the other community events that we have here in Clark County,” says Olson. “Port of Camas-Washougal and Fort Vancouver have phenomenal community events that I would encourage everybody to attend as well.”
That sentiment is included in the resolution adopted unanimously by the council.
“The Council encourages all residents to celebrate at one of the three community fireworks celebrations on the 4th of July,” the resolution reads, listing Independence Day at Fort Vancouver, at Pearson Airfield, the Port of Camas-Washougal 4th of July Concert and Celebration at Washougal Waterfront Park, along with the new Fourth at the Fairgrounds celebration. “Each event will provide community residents with an opportunity to celebrate our nation’s independence in a fun and safe environment,” the resolution concludes.
“So do something on the Fourth of July, other than terrorize your neighbors with mortars and fireworks,” added Olson.
Fellow councilor John Blom, who also sits on the Historic Trust’s board, says he supports the launch of a third major event.
“This truly is recognition that our community has grown to the point where we don’t just have to have one event,” said Blom, “we can have multiple events and we can all find ways in our own local communities, whether that’s North County, east side in Camas-Washougal, or in the city of Vancouver, celebrate the fourth.”
Blom did add that C-TRAN is also providing free rides to and from the Fort. The transit agency will be providing complimentary transportation to the Fairgrounds from Ridgefield or the 99th Street Transit Center.
Olson made sure to thank the representatives from Ridgefield, which is shifting away from its own fireworks show in favor of the Fairgrounds event, as well as Battle Ground and La Center, and ilani and the Fairgrounds management group for working to plan such a large show.
“It’s like planning a party and wondering if anybody’s going to come, so hopefully they will,” said Olson.