Fun, friends and fireworks are just some of the attractions residents will find at the Eastern Sierra Regional Airport in Bishop this year as the Bishop Volunteer Fire Departments hosts its annual Independence Day fireworks show.
It’s a celebration that almost wasn’t this year, when the department considered cancelling the traditional festivities due to budget and manpower concerns – essentially the drain the show puts on both.
In the end, and hoping the community will pitch in with gate fees and donations, the volunteer firefighters decided the show must go on.
Firefighters will open the gates at the airport at 4 p.m. July 4, allowing residents and visitors to park their cars, RVs barbecues and easy-ups for Bishop’s biggest block party.
Each year the volunteer fire department pays for a professional, choreographed fireworks show, which, for many, is the highlight of the event.
For others, the highlight is the friendly, small-town feel the event brings as residents line up on the tarmac to set off their own safe and sane fireworks and celebrate Independence Day together.
According to Bishop Fire Chief Ray Seguine, residents are invited to bring their RVs, easy-ups, chairs, barbecues, lawn games or just about anything else to the celebration.
What is not allowed are illegal, aerial fireworks that Seguine said pose a threat to the safety of residents and dry shrub found in the Sierra.
Seguine also said that the fire department is asking that residents refrain from bringing their off-road or any other non-licensed vehicle, such as dirt bikes, rhinos or others.
“There are just too many people out there, so we’re trying to get the word out that we won’t be allowing off-road vehicles at the airport this year,” he said.
As an added convenience, Seguine said both entrances to the airport, one on Line Street and one on Wye Road, will be open to avoid congestion before and after the show.
Throughout the event, the Bishop Volunteer Fire Department will be on hand to monitor the surrounding area to ensure the safety of residents as they handle their private pyrotechnics.
Most members of the volunteer fire department willingly give up their holiday festivities to host the annual event.
Also, local law enforcement will be patrolling the area to ensure no one uses illegal fireworks that put residents’ safety at risk and are a major fire hazard.
Those caught with illegal fireworks will be prosecuted and the fireworks will be confiscated.
This year, as in previous years, Preferred Sceptic and Disposal will be donating rest room facilities and dumpsters, and, for the first time, Bishop Waste will be donating handicapped accessible bathrooms.
Also, Bishop Little League will be at the airport selling fireworks to help raise funds for players and the Eastern Sierra Interfaith Alliance will be manning the Big Pine Civic Club’s shaved ice booth.
Seguine said any non-profit organization is welcome to set up a vendor booth at the airport to raise funds for their organization.
Those who plan to stay home this Fourth of July and soak in the sights of the annual fireworks show from the comfort of their own lawn are being asked to chip in to help cover costs of the community celebration.
“It costs us a lot to put on this choreographed fireworks show, and last year gate receipts were down, which means more people were watching outside,” Seguine said. “I understand some people don’t like the big crowds at the airport, but the cost and manpower to do the show and provide response if we get a call is pretty high.”
Seguine, the volunteer firefighters and many residents who enjoy the fireworks show each year are asking residents who plan to watch the fireworks show but not pay the $20 per car load admission to the airport festivities to give a donation to the department to help cover costs.
The fire department seriously considered cancelling this year’s fireworks show due to the cost, but decided to try one more time to make the show happen without a loss of money.
Those who would like to send a donation may mail them to P.O. Box 1236, Bishop, CA 93515.
Those who would like to drop their donation off in person may do so at the West Line Street Fire Station next to City Hall. If no one answers the door there, Seguine said donations may be left with the Bishop Police Department.
After the fireworks show, the volunteer firefighters and many of their friends and families head back out to the airport in the wee morning hours on July 5 to begin the extensive cleanup.
Anyone who would like to help with the cleanup efforts, which includes picking up trash and fireworks debris from the tarmac, is welcome to help.
“The cleanup is extensive, so we’re asking residents to help out and pick up their own trash out there,” Seguine said.