Putting on a Show: The passion behind Fish Creek’s fourth celebration

Almost immediately after the last multi-colored light shower explodes over the bay of Fish Creek, Terry Bolland, owner of the Summertime Restaurant, and Brian Hackbarth, Summertime’s General Manager, will start again the arduous and lengthy process that is putting together the next years’ show.

Months of planning go into each Fourth of July celebration in Fish Creek; there are numerous approvals to be granted, sponsorships to acquire, and much organizing of tents for music, food, drinks, and more.

Anyone who spends the Fourth in Door County knows there are festivities in almost every town, so why go through all this work to have another one in Fish Creek?

“When it comes to fireworks, I’m just like a little kid,” Bolland said.

Back in 1990, Bolland was sitting with longtime friends Bill Trost and Gary Weber at the C & C Supper Club. They started talking about fireworks and Fish Creek’s lack thereof, and the idea was born. They decided to raise money to put on the show by obtaining $200 sponsorships from local business owners, property owners, and vacationers. “Within the first hour we had raised a thousand dollars,” Bolland said.

A few years later, in 1993, members of the Fish Creek Civic Association came to Bolland and asked to serve food and beer and turn the fireworks into an all day affair. This daylong celebration concept carried over for the next year’s show as well, but Bolland, Trost and Weber decided they could no longer afford the time away from their businesses to organize the event, so the Fish Creek Fourth of July celebration stopped.

However, Bolland never lost his desire for fireworks, and in 2004, with the help and drive of Hackbarth, the show was brought back. Hackbarth said Fish Creek was losing business on the holiday because the crowds were heading to towns with fireworks.

“The motivation was to bring people to our town,” Hackbarth said. “I went to Terry and he told me how he’d done it before.”

It took till 2004 to get all the pieces together, as putting on the show isn’t a simple process. In order to host a fireworks display, many federal regulations must be met and approvals must be granted from the Coast Guard, Civil Aeronautics, Homeland Security Administration, Gibraltar Town Board and the Civic Association. In 2002, Hackbarth, who “is more the diplomat,” Terry explained, went from door to door collecting necessary approvals.

There’s more to the fireworks then just getting approvals, however. In order to put on the all day affair, including tents for food, beer and music, a lot of time and effort has to be put into organization, but most importantly, the funds have to be raised. Sponsorships come from local business owners, Fish Creek residents and property owners, and vacationers. The Summertime prepares all the food.

Bolland and Hackbarth said it couldn’t be pulled off without the sponsors and volunteers who help out – like Jim Wilson who organizes the first shift of volunteers in the food tent, and Bob Heiderman who organizes the second shift – in addition to the numerous Civic Association volunteers.

“All sponsors have to contribute at least $250, but there are many people who contribute much more in terms of money, time and effort, and we are so grateful to all of the people who are a part of making this happen,” Bolland said. He also mentioned Mike Kahr of Death’s Door Marine, who furnishes the barge and towing service used to launch the fireworks.

Hackbarth said the event does more than provide a great evening’s entertainment.

“It draws people from all over,” he explained. “They get a feel for the town, and they want to come back to Fish Creek.”

Digger DeGroot, the former restaurateur who now works at the Fish Creek Information Center, agreed.

“It’s a great thing that Terry and Brian do,” he said. “They do a lot of work…it’s a wonderful thing for the village.”

Festivities begin in Clark Park at noon, with the fireworks hitting the sky at 10 pm. Then, for the 25-minute show Bolland and Hackbarth get to relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor, before beginning anew the planning the next year’s celebration.

“For those 30 minutes…it’s all worth it,” Hackbarth said.

As for Bolland, “I just love fireworks,” he said, and all of those who share his enthusiasm can come to Fish Creek the Saturday July Fifth and enjoy “the best fireworks show around.”