The sky over CiCo Park will be lit up again this Fourth of July thanks to a new sponsor of the annual show.
Scott Wempe, assistant golf professional at Colbert Hills, said he volunteered to take over the operation this year from Chris Darrah, who has run the show in the past.
Darrah announced following last year’s Thunder over Manhattan show that he was relinquishing the sponsor’s position due to the difficulties in finding sponsors who could help cover the cost of the show.
Wempe said he decided to take over the display from Darrah because he thought last year’s show was not as exciting as it should have been. The fireworks will begin at dark, around 10 p.m., as in previous years.
Wempe acknowledged that preparations have not always gone smoothly. The difficulties have included actually obtaining the fireworks, and also pinning down the site.
Wempe said he ordered a box of fireworks that would meet his expectations of what a public display should be, but the box he ordered in February was not the box he received.
He said the company that packaged the order got it wrong, shorting him on the highly popular aerial aspects. Still, Wempe said the show, which he expects to last about 30 minutes, will have more fireworks lighting up the night sky than before.
He said his main reason for taking over the show was to keep people in Manhattan for the display.
“I hate it when people tell me they are going out of town to watch the fireworks,” he said. “ They tell me they are going to Wamego or Junction City.”
Another way he hoped to make the show better this year was to hold it at Colbert Hills. He said setting up the display on the course would have provided a higher, and thus more visible, location than the parking lot at CiCo. It would also have been more spacious. He said everyone on staff and at the club was “on-board” with the display being held on the driving range until “one lady” stopped that idea early last week.
The fallout from the site change has cost him. He had already paid for advertising promoting the display at Colbert Hills and all advertising has the course listed on it.
In addition to the confusion, three sponsors pulled their donations. That meant he had to cut advertising short and spent $1,000 out of pocket to cover the cost of the fireworks.
Wempe said Darrah had required donors to give $10,000 each to sponsor the annual event, but he thought that was too much money.
He lowered the sponsorship to $2,500 in hopes of gathering more sponsors to help create a better show. But instead of having 10 to 15 sponsors as he hoped, he ended up with only 5 to 6 sponsors to help cover the cost.
He said the sponsors will receive a dinner at the course and a trolley ride to CiCo prior to the event.
If more donors want to help fund the display, he said to contact him at (785) 806-6036. If he receives more donations than cost of the fireworks and additional advertising, the money would be put back into next year’s display.