Donations Lagging, Sizzle of Fireworks May End This Year

By JAMES KINSELLA

For more than three decades, the Oak Bluffs Firemen's Civic Association fireworks have served as the unofficial notice that the Vineyard summer is drawing to a close.

This year, the fireworks, a 45-minute spectacular scheduled to get under way around 9 tonight, may be serving notice that they themselves are coming to an end.

Ken Davey, head of the association's fireworks committee, said waning financial support and volunteer involvement have placed the annual mid-August event in jeopardy. The 2006 firemen's fireworks, he said, may be the last.

"We need more help," Mr. Davey said about the display, celebrating its 31st continuous year. "We need money."

He estimates the cost of the Oak Bluffs event at about $20,000. But Mr. Davey said the principal sources of support for the event - T-shirt sales, donations from businesses and $100 tickets for a cruise to watch the fireworks from the sea - have been lagging.

In truth, Mr. Davey said, the event has not been flush for a number of years. But this year definitely is worse. Business donations are off, though he said it is unclear whether that stems from a slower business summer or from changes in ownership. He said he does not want to harangue Oak Bluffs businesses. To compensate, he has started approaching businesses outside town.

Mr. Davey also has been reluctant to aggressively pursue the summer residents. The money left over after expenses, he said, goes to fund charitable works for year-round Islanders, such as scholarships for students at the Martha's Vineyard High School; food baskets for the poor at Christmas, as well as a Christmas party for children at the Portuguese-American Club; donations to benefit injured town employees and firefighters; and support for Boy Scout Troop 293.

He said the volunteers who principally make up the Oak Bluffs department also have had less time available this summer to help with preparation for the event. In response, he stepped up himself to pull the event together, logging about 700 miles on his truck in the last couple of weeks.

"We either need more funds, or a corporate sponsor, or more help in doing everything," Mr. Davey said.