Organizing this week’s Fourth of July Freedom Fair in Tacoma means Gary Grape is working harder in retirement than he did in his career.
But in his first year in charge of the event, he says he’s had fun pulling together the vendors, entertainers and fireworks that families will get to enjoy Friday.
He spoke with The News Tribune about what Freedom Fair attendees can expect this year, and what it took to make the celebration happen.
Last year, the company in charge of placing the barge got their coordinates wrong and placed it 800 to 1,000 feet too far to the east. Some people couldn’t see it. I negotiated with the fireworks display company and said: “Hey, we had a lot of people that didn’t get to see the fullness of the fireworks show.” They said: “What we can do is add more shells this year.”
So they’re going to add about $4,000 worth of shells, in addition to what we paid for.
When I retired, I got bored after six months, so I called (former Freedom Fair director) Doug Miller and said: “Do you have anything for me to do?” And he certainly did.
They’re not able to do that anymore. There will be bomb-sniffing dogs at the entrance, sniffing every car that comes in. Once a car comes in, it has to stay until the festival is over. The general public can’t (park) in there anyway.
Last year there was no military planes involved in any shows throughout the country. This year they loosened up a little bit. But Tacoma got turned down. We couldn’t even get a C-141 out of McChord to do a flyby.
The airshow we’re going to have is spectacular, but not as spectacular as the big Thunderbolt gets when it comes through and lights up the sky. We’re doing the best we can with what we can afford and what’s available. We really do want to get the military jets back.
It costs a little over $140,000 cash to put this on. A lot of people think: “It’s a city event, why should I have to pay?” Most of the contributions from the city are in-kind. The garbage pickup, Tacoma Police Department, electrical power, all the sani-cans.
If you tally up all the in-kind donations, it runs close to $750,000. When you put everything together, it’s a $1 million event.