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Inyo to celebrate freedom with food, family fun and fireworks

July 2, 2012

Despite the financial hardship and personal sacrifice involved, the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department will again be presenting a professionally staged and choreographed pyrotechnics display at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport on July 4. Residents are strongly encouraged to watch the show from the airport, or make a donation to the department if they watch from somewhere else in Bishop. Photo by Madison Taylor



Author and humorist Erma Bombeck once observed that the mark of a good Independence Day celebration has more to do with enjoying hometown comforts and the company of others than overly solemn ceremonial tributes.

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism,” she said.

Inyo County’s communities of Big Pine, Bishop and Independence are all about friendly festivities. On Wednesday, July 4, they will celebrate  Independence Day 2012 with friendly competition, a flag-raising, food, music and dancing, food, arts and crafts, food, fun for “kids” of all ages, food and pyrotechnics displays – the professional kind orchestrated by local fire departments and those resulting from residents’ enjoyment of their own “Safe and Sane” fireworks.

And, oh yeah, there will be food.


Big Pine will kick the day off with the Big Pine Volunteer Fire Department’s annual Fourth of July 5K/10K Fun Run at 7 a.m. Visitors and residents are welcome to  enter the Fun Run the morning-of – arrive by 6:30 a.m. to sign up and sign liability forms. At the conclusion of the Fun Run, there will be 5K and 10K prizes for first, second and third place.

There will be two separate courses this year. According to Fun Run coordinator Dave Schlieker, the 5K course begins at Mendenhall Park, follows Baker Creek Road to the Baker Creek campground, County Road and School Street and back to the park. The 10K course starts at the Fire Department, located next to the high school baseball fields on Main Street, said Schlieker, goes through the park, to School Street, the back of “Korea,” West Street, Glacier Lodge Road, Sugarloaf, “the grapevines,”  and ends at Mendenhall Park.

Fun-runners can rest and replenish with the traditional  breakfast that follows.  Schlieker said this year’s menu includes pancakes,  OJ, hash browns, eggs and bacon. The $25 entry fee includes the meal. Breakfast will be served to non-runners for $5. For more information, contact Schlieker at (760) 920-8765.

The conviviality will continue from 4-7 p.m. at Mendenhall Park with the Fire Department’s traditional barbecue. The menu  includes ribs and chicken, salads and other sides and beverages. The cost, $14 per adult and $8 for children age 12 and under, benefits the Big Pine Volunteer Fire Department. 


The citizens and visitors of Bishop will be able to enjoy traditional festivities this July 4, as well as a few new and improved ones.

The City of Bishop’s Annual Big Day at the Park Fourth of July celebration starts bright and early at 9 a.m., with a one-pitch softball tournament and open play for tennis, bocce and sand volleyball players. For tournament registration and information, contact City of Bishop at (760) 873-5863 or visit City Hall at 377 W. Line St.

At 11 a.m., the pool opens for free public swimming.

Fun at the Park also includes the Touch-a-Truck event, at 1 p.m., which will give youngsters a chance to “familiarize themselves with any type of large work vehicles,” said Community Services Secretary Karey Poole. The children will have permission to climb in and all around to get a birdseye view of what it’s like inside the work vehicles they see in and around the community every day.

From 1-4 p.m., bring your dancing shoes and sweet tooth – there will also be live music and free watermelon, pie and ice cream.

All festivities at the Park will end at 4 p.m.

Everyone is invited to  Laws Museum at 2 p.m., when the American Legion Post 118 will raise a brand new red-white-and-blue in a formal flag dedication ceremony. The Legionnaires donated the tall flag pole and a U.S. flag to the Laws Museum.


The Bishop Volunteer Fire Department will host its 59th annual Safe and Sane fireworks extravaganza at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport. At 4 p.m., two entrance/exit gates will open, to cut down on traffic congestion, one at the airport entrance  off East Line Street and one of Wye Road. Though the show starts after 9 p.m., the early gate hour will give fireworks devotees a chance to stake out prime viewing real estate, set up barbecues, coolers, lawn games, RVs and so on, said Don Kunze, who has been involved in pyrotechnics since the mid-80s and who has been this show’s ring master for 25 years now.

What should the public expect this year? Simply put, “Bishop has the best fireworks show in the Eastern Sierra,” said Kunze, who has also been the Fire Department engineer for 25 years. Crowds can expect a new-and-improved pyro-musical show – a combination of aerial fireworks synchronized to music which will be broadcast on KIBS 100.7. Specialty shell items such as hearts and smiley faces will be artfully interwoven with well-loved standards in a “very nice mix,” said Kunze.

Independence Day celebrators are also welcome to set off their own fireworks on the tarmac, however, illegal, aerial fireworks are prohibited as they can be dangerous to the public and the environment in this dry season, said Bishop Fire Chief Ray Seguine. Be sure to buy fireworks that bear the California Sate Fire Marshal’s “Safe and Sane” fireworks seal of approval, said Kunz.

Seguine, who has been involved with event for the last 13 years, said that non-profit vendors are welcome again this year, to sell food, beverages and the like, at no cost to the vendors. It enhances the event, said Kunze and “if they can do something that helps them out” that’s great.

This high-quality pyro-musical show doesn’t just happen without the time and  financial backing of many people said Kunze. It takes a minimum six- to eight-person crew just to put on the show, said Kunze. Seguine added that the fire department’s entire staff of about 30 or so volunteers are at work before, during and after the show to man the gates, direct traffic, assist visitors, set up, tear down and clean up – not to mention the standby fire crew that will be at the ready back at the station on July 4, to do quick-responses, just in case. 

These volunteer firefighters provide this community service entertainment extravaganza without any monetary compensation, said Seguine. All of this time is freely given – by folks who forego celebrating the Independence Day holiday with their families to ensure that the public enjoys a safe Fourth, added Kunze.

Kunze said that one of his greatest pleasures is hearing the people cheer as the fireworks go off. People don’t know the pyrotechnicians behind the show, he said, but he gets great personal satisfaction just knowing that he has given all those people a thrill.

But the show does cost. This year, the fireworks with shipping, insurance, and so on comes to $29,000 which the Fire Department has to  pay fir out of its emergency equipment budget. The Fire Department might break even, said Kunze, but it almost never makes any money. Still, Bishop Fire Department has made every effort to remain dedicated to keeping the show available to the public. Admission price is $20 per carload for “as many as you can pack in there,” said Kunze. While many residents and visitors don’t pay the fee and just watch from outside airport grounds, fireworks still cost money no matter where they are viewed from and the Fire Department requests that people enjoying the show outside of the gate make a donation for this public service. Any citizens interested in making a donation by mail may do so at P.O. Box 12366, Bishop, CA 93514. Make checks payable to Bishop Fire Department.

Thanking the events sponsors, Kunz included: Paiute Palace Casino, Sierra Aviation, Praxis Associates, Coso Geothermal, Bishop Rotary Club, Sunrise Rotary Club, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and KIBS/KBOV. And, of course, Preferred Septic and Waste will once again sponsor the event by donating dumpsters and restroom facilities, including ones that are handicapped-accessible. 

Seguine said, “Enjoy the show and please clean up your area after you’re done.  We’ll be handing out trash bags” to help with that. Filled trash bags can be placed in dumpsters or left at visitors’ sites to be collected in the morning by the tear-down crew, said Seguine.  “Respect everybody’s space,” he added, and “Thank you for coming out and supporting the Fire Department’s” effort to put on this great family event.

By the way, clean-up after this giant block party is a giant chore. Volunteer firefighters will start at 6 a.m. on July 5 and it usually takes at least three hours, said Seguine, even with the help of City of Bishop street sweepers. Although some of their family and friends help out, any volunteers are welcome join in.


Independence celebrates its name this Independence Day with a varied menu of Fourth of July festivities, starting the night before on Tuesday, July 3 with music and dance in Dehy Park from 8 p.m.-midnight.  One July 4, the festivities continue.

At 6:15 a.m., the American Legion will raise the flag  and  the Independence Lions Club will serve a pancake breakfast from 6:30-8:30 a.m. in Dehy Park 

Participants of the Independence Civic Club’s annual 4K Run/Walk and 10K Run should be warmed up and ready to go by 6:30 a.m. at the starting location at Inyo Street and U.S. 395, across from Dehy Park, where parking, restrooms and water are available.

The “starting pistol” is set to go off at 7 a.m. Entry fee is $15 for adults, ages 18 years and older; $5 for 6- to 17-year-olds; and folks age 5 years and younger can participate for free. Pets, which must be on a leash, may also fun-run for free. Make checks payable to ICC; proceeds support Historic Independence Preservation. All human participants must register and sign a liability waiver before entering the race.

Registration forms are available at Lone Pine and Bishop chambers of commerce; Valley Market, Independence;  Independence and Lone Pine libraries; Joseph’s Market; Independence Shell Station; Dugan’s Cafe, Jenny’s Cafe and Annette Wood’s front porch at 237 W. Market St. in Independence. Information is also posted on the Independence Chamber of Commerce websites at Call (760) 878-2046 for more information.

The Historic Independence Preservation committee is holding its membership drive will also be held at the race. “You can pay not to run,” states its flyer, at the Platinum donation level of $100-$500, the gold level for $50-$99, the silver level for $25-49 or the bronze level for $10-$24. Proceeds will help HIP  projects such as the creation  of a map that identifies buildings by age and history. Send checks, payable to FECM, to Independence Civic Club, P.O. Box 482, Independence, CA 93526. 

The Arts & Crafts Show, in the center of Independence on the front and back lawns of the Historic Inyo Country Courthouse at center of town on U.S. 395 will start at 8 a.m. and go until 2 p.m., or until it gets too warm, states the event flyer. Vendor space fee for artisans, crafters and collectors is $15 per space. Applications are available on the Independence  Chamber of Commerce  website. Spaces are assigned on a first-come basis and vendors are advised to bring their own shade. For more information, contact (760) 878-2204 or

This year’s Fourth of July parade starts at 10 a.m. The   theme is “Stake Your Claim in Independence,” in honor of Inyo County’s mining history. It will begin its promenade at West Payne Street and proceed north on U.S. 395 to West Wall Street where it will reverse its route and travel back down U.S. 395.

Arlene Grider is this year’s Grand Marshal. Grider was chosen for her ongoing, sweeping commitment to the improvement of the community of Independence as:   Independence Civic Club president; co-founder of Independence Community Services District and Independence Chamber of Commerce; involvement with the Eastern Sierra Land Tenure project and the Sierra Business Council; Manzanar National Historic Site volunteer and supporter; and Owens Valley School Board member.

Parade entries must arrive on time, lining up at 9 a.m. at the corner of West Payne and South Washington streets. Judging begins at 9:15 a.m. Entries can win in any of six award categories this year: Sweepstakes, Best of Theme, Most Patriotic, Judges Award, Best Equestrian and Star-Spangled Youth.

Parade entry deadline is July 1. Entry forms are available at the same locations as those listed above for the 4K/10K Fun Run. and on the Chamber’s website.  Call (760) 878-8084 or (760) 878-2046 for more information.

At noon the United Methodist Women will start selling a variety of donated pies by the slice during their Pie Social. A la mode is extra. Event organizer Sandee Bilyeu said, “Every year, we sell more than 50 pies. They go in the first hour and a half and the line goes around the whole park,” so pie-lovers better get there early. The event benefits United Methodist Church’s  mission giving. 

At Dehy Park, there will be Olde Tyme Kids Games, such as frog-jumping contests, at 2 p.m. and a deep-pit barbecue served by the Civic Club from 4-6:30 p.m.

The grand finale of the day is, of course, the  Independence Volunteer Fire Department fireworks display at the Independence Airport. A donation will be requested.

Commemorative T-shirts with the “Stake Your Claim in Independence” logo on deep, Texas orange-colored T’s,  are available to residents and visitors in a variety of styles and sizes, said Annette Woods. They will be on sale at the race, breakfast and arts and crafts show for $15-$20  in four styles –  men’s short and long sleeve and women’s V-neck and spaghetti strap – and a variety of sizes – youth large and adult small through triple extra large (S-XXXL). All T-shirts come in a deep Texas orange color except the spaghetti-strapped ones which are available in plum.


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