The traditional Shake the Lake fireworks show is primed to explode into the skies over Wallowa Lake at its customary time – dusk, or about 9 p.m.—on Thursday, July 4.
Spectators in the county park and along the lake shore will be treated to almost two hours of multi-intensity and multi-color pyrotechnics, including crossetes (large stars that then break into smaller stars), chrysanthemums (a spherical burst that leaves a visible burst of sparks) and bouquet shells, which scatter a number of smaller shells across the sky before they explode. The colors of the fireworks come from a variety of metallic compounds that include copper (blue), calcium (orange), barium (green) lithium and strontium (red) and antimony and titanium (bright silver colors.)
If you don’t want to watch the fireworks, but would rather just listen, you can hear them more than 10 miles north of Enterprise along USFS Road 46 (the Charolais Road) and many other locations in the county.
But unless donors step up to the plate soon, next year there may be no 4th of July Shake the Lake fireworks, said Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce director Vicki Searles. “To sustain the program, we need to pull together,” she said. “The cost of this year’s fireworks is $14,500. Right now, we are about $6,400 short of that amount.”
“The Chamber can pay for this year’s show by tapping into its limited contingency fund,” Searles said. “But the problem is assuring that we can do this next year, and the year after, and continue the celebration into the future.”
The cost of the Shake the Lake 4th of July fireworks has increased an average of about $1000 each year, according to Chamber figures. In 2003, when the Independence Day show began, the fireworks bill was just $4000. Last year the show cost about $13,000. “Part of the expenses are the restrooms and cleanup,” Searles said. “But we want to put on a memorable show. The chamber decided to offer the best program we could possibly deliver.”
Shake the Lake benefits most of the communities in Wallowa County, including restaurants, lodging, and even gasoline sales in Wallowa Lake, Joseph, and Enterprise, Searles noted. “If we eliminate our fireworks, other communities that have fireworks—La Grande, and Pendleton especially—will lure the 4th of July visitors,” she said. “But Shake the Lake is not so much for visitors as it is for us—it’s an event for the families of Wallowa County.”
Searles is hoping that individuals and businesses will step up soon to help ensure that Shake the Lake will continue into the future. Fourth of July fireworks have a long tradition. The very first 4th of July fireworks was in Philadephia in 1777 — before the fledgling republic had any independence to celebrate. And on July 3, 1776, John Adams wrote to his wife, Abigail: “This day in July will be the most memorable Epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
But with Shake the Lake on shaky ground, it remains to be seen whether our “shew” as Adams wrote, will go on.