Stillwater adds live music to July Fourth festivities; City hopes donations cover slight budget shortfall

SAHS graduate Colin Campbell and his brothers will play in Stillwater July Fourth. (Submitted photo)
SAHS graduate Colin Campbell and his brothers will play in Stillwater July Fourth. (Submitted photo)

With the Fourth of July falling on a weekend this year, the city of Stillwater is planning for larger-than-usual crowds, and it hopes to make a resounding impression.

In an effort to put its best foot forward, Stillwater will add live music in Lowell Park to the festivities. If a promised donation comes through, the city will also add five Civil War-style cannons and extra fireworks to the mix.

“Fourth of July fireworks is a big tradition in Stillwater,” said Councilmember Mike Polehna, who has been planning the show. “People come from all over. I’m guessing there will 20,000-30,000 people downtown.”

At 5 p.m., Colin Campbell and the C-Notes will play at the Lowell Park amphitheater in downtown Stillwater.
Campbell, a recent Stillwater Area High School graduate, provides vocals and guitar for his trio, which includes his brothers Cameron and Evan. The three represented Minnesota at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, and shared the stage with the likes of Jimmy Vaughn and The Wallflowers at the 2014 Thunder Bay Blues Festival.

At approximately 6:30 p.m. Rolling Stones cover band Tumblin’ Dice will perform. Tumblin’ Dice has been playing for a decade and has been called the Midwest’s premier Rolling Stones tribute.

Polehna said the event is an effort to bring back some of the features of the city’s Fourth of July celebration that had disappeared in the last few years.

According to Mayor Ted Kozlowski the Stillwater’s recent fireworks shows have encountered challenges, such as flooding, tight budgets and construction hassles.

“This year everything is coming together,” Kozlowski said. “Downtown looks really good right now. … We thought it would be a good time to step it up.”

The city’s primary challenge this year has been a slight shortfall in expected donations.

The 2015 budget allocated $42,000 for fireworks, with the city contributing $30,000. Donations were expected to cover the remaining $12,000.

As of June 16, the city had received $8,250 in donations, leaving a budget shortfall of $3,750.

In recent years, Oak Park Heights contributed to Stillwater’s show. Although it had budgeted $5,000 for that purpose in 2015, the Oak Park Heights City Council failed to approve the contribution May 26. It has not discussed the issue since, and the topic is not expected to be on the agenda at the council’s meeting next week.

If Stillwater doesn’t receive more donations, it may need to cover the shortfall with a line-item transfer from within the special events budget, according to City Administrator Tom McCarty.

“We’re already committed to the $42,000 of costs for the fireworks activity,” McCarty said. He noted there is some wiggle room in the special events budget, such as $10,000 allocated for a contracted events coordinator position. Those dollars haven’t been spent.

Regardless of what donations come in, Polehna and Kozlowski said the two scheduled bands are booked will play on the Fourth. Kozlowski said if necessary, he’d pay for the bands.

In addition to the bands, the council would like to spend roughly $5,000 more on fireworks, Polehna said, and have five Civil War-style cannons firing off in Lowell Park in conjunction with the 1812 Overture during the finale.

“People loved it the last time we had (the cannons),” Polehna said. “But we couldn’t afford it the last couple of years.”

On June 16, the council unanimously approved adding the cannons and extra fireworks spending if the promised donation for the enhancements came through by June 19. Councilmember Tom Weidner was absent. As of about 8 a.m. June 18, McCarty said city staff had not received the money.

Regardless of whether the cannons return, Polehna expects the bands and the show to be a hit.

“Stillwater can shoot the biggest shells in the state of Minnesota,” Polehna said. “We can shoot up to 12-inch shells.”

As in previous years, the show will include music playing in Lowell Park and broadcast simultaneously on local radio station KLBB (AM 1220).

“The fireworks are set to the music, and it’s all computer generated,” Polehna said. “They’re fired off by the computer.”

Kozlowski also expects this year to be something special. Usually he spends the Fourth of July on his boat, but that might change.

“This year I think it’s going to be compelling enough that I think I’m going to need to be downtown the whole time,” he said.

Contact Jonathan Young at [email protected]