Once again, the widely anticipated fireworks display at the foot of Wallowa Lake will begin at about 10 p.m. on the Fourth of July, which this year falls on a Wednesday.
Because the event is financed wholly through donations, its never a certainty whether the fireworks will be held on a given year.
Vickie Searles of the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce announced last week that plans are set for the 2012 fireworks display in spite of the fact that about $2,500 still needed to be raised to meet expenses.
The biggest expense is for the fireworks themselves, which last year amounted to about $8,500. Bruce Lawson and his crew from Homeland Fireworks Inc., of Jamieson (17 miles northwest of Vale), again will set off the fireworks.
James Hunter, who along with wife Diana has owned and operated the Barking Dog Farm and Country Bed & Breakfast, on Alder Slope, for the past seven years, says, For us, this [fireworks display] is the biggest event of the year.
Each year, except for one year when there was danger from lightning, the Hunters have taken their boarders out on the lake to view the fireworks from the vantage of their jet boat.
Hunter says, in addition to the visual display, he enjoys the sound bouncing off the mountains.
He says the same group of customers has filled Barking Dog rooms for the past four years, reserving those rooms as much as a year in advance to ensure they will be able to enjoy the fireworks the following year.
Hunter says his role has expanded from financial contributor to active participant both last year and this year because the Wallowa County Sheriffs Office no longer is willing to bring floating docks to the general fireworks site.
Wallowa County Sheriff Fred Steen says the primary reason for no longer supplying that service for the Fourth of July fireworks show is because the boat used in the past to move those docks, in reality, is not powerful enough for that purpose. That boat is the property of the Oregon Marine Board.
Yesterday, July 2, for the second year in a row, Hunter was scheduled to take his nearly 400-horsepower jet boat to the head of Wallowa Lake and hook up with county docks and begin the process of pushing docks about five miles to the county dock at the north end of the lake. There, others would latch possibly six docks together. He says its not his responsibility to move the assembled docks to the actual site in the lake where the fireworks will be triggered.
Hunter says he has learned, like tugboats, to push the docks the length of lake instead of towing them so he can control the steerage. Towing them is insane, he adds, noting the problems winds and other factors can generate.
Pushing county docks from the head of the lake on Monday and back on Thursday, regularly about two or three docks at a time, takes about a full day each way.
Debbie Short, of the Joseph Chamber of Commerce, says the annual fireworks display is paid for by contributions, and three of the biggest annual contributors are the Joseph Chamber, the Wallowa Lake Tourist Committee, and the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners.
Shorts best advice in regard to parking for the fireworks show is to arrive early. In addition to the relatively large parking lot at the north end of the lake nearest the display, people can park in a smaller parking lot a short distance toward the city of Joseph constructed for users of the Iwetemlaykin Trail. She also noted that, to her knowledge, those who park to the side of Highway 82 and walk to view the light show are not ticketed as long as they park their vehicles well off of the highway.
Donations can be mailed to the Wallowa County Chamber of Commerce, 115 Tejaka Lane, Enterprise, OR 97828.
Sheriff Steen is of the opinion that many pre-county fireworks displays launched from private docks are not legal, but says he lacks the manpower to enforce that violation on one of the busiest nights of the year.