Fundraiser underway for fireworks display

Thanks to a $10,000 Maui County grant and numerous other donations, the Maui Chamber of Commerce already has a jump-start on its annual fundraiser for the Fourth of July Lahaina fireworks show.

Although the chamber has $19,000 on hand, it still needs to raise $25,000 to meet its minimum budget of $44,000, chamber President Pamela Tumpap said Thursday.

“There is nothing too small or too large; we can use it all,” she said of the donations.

Last year, the show attracted around 21,000 people to Lahaina, which is about 1,000 more than the year before. Tumpap said last year’s event generated strong sales for restaurants and retail businesses.

The annual fireworks display has also received national acclaim from Yahoo! In 2011, the Web search engine’s travel editor, Deborah Hopewell, ranked the Fourth of July in Lahaina as No. 3 in her top eight destinations for the holiday. She called it a “unique” and “tropical” event, according to the chamber.

The chamber and its Westside Committee are in charge of organizing, soliciting funds for and promoting the July 4 festivities in Lahaina, Tumpap said, adding that visitors and residents look forward to the celebration.

“It’s also about the Fourth of July and what that means to our nation,” Tumpap said. “When you are sitting there at the end of the night and watching the aerial fireworks with your family and friends and people are singing patriotic songs and they are oohing and awing, it’s really about that (feeling) too. It’s a win-win on so many levels. We don’t want to let it go.”

Every year, it’s a challenge for the chamber to raise funds to put on the July 4 fireworks because it comes on the heels of the business group’s annual fundraising golf tournament. Sometimes the chamber is asking for donations from residents and business on both levels in a short span of time. But Tumpap said that donations for the fireworks event are slated for that program only.

Donations are needed to keep the fireworks display free, she said.

“It is a struggle to raise the over $40,000 that is required to hold the event every year, but somehow it always comes together in the end due to our gracious and generous business sector (with businesses across the island making contributions) and community members pulling together,” she said in a written statement.

The fireworks alone cost around $30,000, Tumpap said. About $14,000 goes toward various items, including the cost of hiring off-duty police officers as well portable toilet rentals.

If the chamber were to raise more than $44,000, it would do more marketing for the event that closes Front Street to pedestrian traffic, she said. There is no Fourth of July parade in Lahaina.

The annual fireworks show began years ago with longtime Lahaina volunteer Theo Morrison and other volunteers getting together to put on the event, with different organizations taking over the fundraising challenge to keep it alive. Now in its fifth year, the chamber appears to have found its stride.

Tumpap said that for the first couple of years she thought the chamber would need to dip into its own pockets to pay the bills. Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary, although the chamber did donate its time and services, including those for accounting toward the event.

Now, with several years under its belt, the chamber still does some in-kind services. But it doesn’t have to foot much of the costs, Tumpap said. The chamber’s Westside Committee volunteers do solicit donations on their own time.

Tumpap said that she is seeking help from many of the businesses that benefit from the fireworks display, which include small retailers and coffee and ice cream shops. Those could donate $100 to $300, while large restaurants, time-share operators and hotels could contribute $1,000 or more.

Donations also are being sought from boat operators who might take out passengers for a fee that night to watch the fireworks display.

“We want to encourage them to give a little bit back and make sure we can keep making this happen for them,” Tumpap said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at