The annual fireworks display in Oak Bluffs will continue this August, thanks to a substantial donation from the cable network Black Entertainment Television (BET).
The future of the long-standing Ocean Park show was called into question last October when the Oak Bluffs Firemen’s Civic Association, the sponsor of the event, said it could no longer bear the costs of the show.
“About a month or so ago I received a call from a gentleman inquiring about the date of our fireworks. When I informed him that we weren’t able to do the fireworks this year, he was beside himself,” said Anita Billings, Oak Bluffs fire department administrative assistant and secretary of the Firemen’s Civic Association.
The man said that the fireworks were the highlight of his summer, said Ms. Billings, and that he would look into seeing if he could help in any way.
That man was Michael Pickrum, executive vice president and chief financial officer of BET Networks.
“Little did I know that he was the chief financial officer of BET Networks,” said Ms. Billings.
“That’s sort of how it started, with an innocent little phone call.”
Ms. Billings declined to disclose the amount of BET Networks’ donation, but called it a “very nice” amount. “It allowed us, along with other little donations that we have gotten, to hold the fireworks this year, which is very exciting,” she said.
In conversation with the Gazette last fall Ms. Billings estimated the costs of fireworks shells for the most recent show at $25,000.
In a statement this week, the Firemen’s Civic Association said, “The decision to discontinue the fireworks has weighed heavily on the hearts of Association members since it was made in October, but the lack of funding and limited donations due to tough economic times had left no other options.”
“Once we found out that the fireworks would be canceled,” Mr. Pickrum said, “we were happy to step in and continue to provide our guests and audiences with a truly memorable experience.”
BET has a history of involvement on the Island; the cable network hosts a well-attended party in Oak Bluffs each summer.
Ms. Billings said she hopes the Firemen’s Civic Association’s newly formed relationship with BET Networks will continue in the years to come. The fireworks show is scheduled for Friday, August 17.