Green Falling Leaves, Pixie Dust Willow with Stained Glass and Crackling Pistil and other munitions will names as colorful as their explosions will light up the July 4 sky over the Charlottesville area, their loud reports echoing from Lake Monticello to Afton.
For the second-straight year, a loose-knit group of local business people and fireworks fans is putting together the area’s Independence Day light and sound show under the name Celebrate US.
Fueled by monetary donations from local residents, shot and shell shall rise above Carters Mountain, lifting off from the high ground of property owned by area developer Wendell Wood.
The fireworks show is a non-partisan, non-political celebration of America and those who helped to build it, from the indentured to the enslaved to the free.
“We’re just a bunch of people who think that Charlottesville, Virginia, should celebrate its role and the people from the area who played a part in creating this country,” said local real estate executive Ray Caddell, who is helping to organize the show.
“We had three important people who played first-hand roles in creating the nation and a lot of people who helped build it up,” he said. “It’s about celebrating all of the races, the religions, and the people who made this country.”
Before the pandemic, the show was held in Charlottesville’s McIntire Park. Last year, with COVID-19 running rampant, the organizers moved the location to Wood’s property, allowing residents across the region to view the show from parking lots, hilltops and pickup truck beds.
“We had a couple of people call us after last year’s show and say they could see the fireworks from Lake Monticello and others who said it was beautiful where they watched it on Afton Mountain,” Caddell said.
“It’s great because it’s big, it’s free, it’s family friendly and you can social distance all you want,” he said. “It’s best to leave your dogs at home, though. I’m a dog guy, but dogs and fireworks don’t go together.”
Although the show is free to view, it is not free to put on. The shells can cost as little as $5 a round to $475 for the descriptively titled Brocade Crown of Magenta with Silver, Glittering to Green Inner Petal with Silver, Glittering Rising Tail.
The show’s funds are being crowdsourced through GoFundMe.com with the title Celebrate US Charlottesville. Although not technically a nonprofit, the group does not hold excess donations, but instead gives them away.
Organizers are hoping to raise $30,000 and so far have raised about $15,000. Caddell said organizers are hoping for more contributions as the event draws nigh.
“We’re 100% privately funded,” Caddell said. “No local government is helping us. It comes directly from people. Any money we have left over after covering costs, we give to charity. We don’t have a president, we don’t have a board of directors and we don’t have an office, so we have no overhead. The only costs we have are security, insurance and the fireworks themselves. Last year, we were able to give about $20,000 to the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.”
This year, any leftover funds will go to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides refuge and relief for families caring for seriously ill children who are being treated at the nearby University of Virginia Medical Center.
“We have some donors and some of last year’s donors have not been able to help this year,” Caddell said. “We can always use financial help to get it going and to make a difference.”
The big sky party is a way to celebrate everything good that the U.S. has to offer, Caddell said.
“There is so much that divides us, from race and economics to religion, and there are a lot of terrible things in American history that we should not celebrate,” he said. “The fireworks and this time of year are about celebrating the good things, the contributions that have been made to building this country. We’re celebrating the good things about the U.S. We want to celebrate the good things about us.”