Sweating in sweltering 96 degree heat, they stood in the middle of the street, holding boots and signs asking for donations. The volunteers weren’t begging for handouts, they were pleading for residents to support their community. So far, their efforts have been very successful.
Directors of the La Junta Chamber of Commerce asked drivers to fill the boot with donations for the town’s annual fireworks display. Every year the show is bought and paid for by town members’ charity. A dollar here and there adds up to the nearly $8,000 in fireworks that are shot off on the Fourth of July.
Friday, the Walk & Don't Walk event held on Third Street was one of the final attempts at bringing in the last of the needed funds. With the help of local radio station KBLJ/KTHN the Chamber and the La Junta Fire Department set about reaching their goal so the tradition would be kept alive. "I do this so my grandchildren and all the children around here can continue to enjoy the show, because I know a lot of other communities no longer have a fireworks show," said Chamber of Commerce President, Chandra Ochoa.
Kids like six-year-old Michael Valerio couldn't be happier. "That's so great that people are donating and giving the people money, ‘cause I want it to really happen," said the youngster.
Ochoa said, the response from the community was once again, superb. By late afternoon they had raised all but the last $1,000 and were confident they would meet their goal by the end of the night. "This does not surprise me at all, all the people driving by with money out the window and coming down to buy hotdogs and hamburgers just to support the community; because that's what it's about in a small town," said Corrie Jones, who moved to La Junta three years ago, but grew up in a small town herself. Long time resident Jeff Ballard agreed with Jones, "It's something you don't see in other areas, in bigger areas, which is nice about a smaller community like La Junta."
The La Junta Fire Department puts on the show, which consists of more than a thousand aerial fireworks with shells ranging in size from three to eight inches. An eight inch firework shell will produce no small bang. When it explodes it will spread it's colorful display 360 feet across the night sky.
The small town fire department has specially trained firefighters who set up and set off the show. While they are doing that, the rest of the department is on high alert. Some will be patrolling the town, others the area surrounding where the fireworks are detonating, all watching for fires that may break out from falling debris.
They also hope fireworks display, and the residents donation to it, will help curb a problem every southern Colorado community faces this weekend. "If we get more people watching our grand display, we hope it cuts down on the communities illegal fireworks," says Lt. Joey Gacnik, with the La Junta Fire Department.
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