Independence Day celebration returns to MLT on July 3

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    Seaun Richards, Mike Halsey at Red Onion Burgers, June 14 007.jpg
    Seaun Richards (left) watches as a possible segment for a television commercial promoting the Mountlake Terrace 3rd of July Celebration is filmed outside his Red Onion Burgers restaurant. Mike Halsey (center) hosts the commercial spot that began airing this week. The portion filmed here didn’t make it into the final 30-second commercial.

    While community firework shows to celebrate Independence Day have been held off and on throughout Mountake Terrace’s history, they were a staple in the 1990’s. Since then, the shows have occurred less often; the city has hosted just three shows on or around the Fourth of July since 2007.

    For City Councilmember and restaurant owner Seaun Richards, something had to be done.

    Richards had asked other city officials repeatedly if plans were in the works to reinstitute a Fourth of July event, but nothing ever came of his inquiries. “So this year, in January, I asked Scott (Hugill, Interim City Manager at the time), ‘Scott, are going to do a fireworks show,’” said Richards. “And he said, ‘why don’t you do it?’”

    So with that urging, Richards went to work, gathering sponsors, contacting pyrotechnic specialists and meeting with other city officials. His efforts have resulted in what he hopes will become a new annual event, The Mountlake Terrace 3rd of July Celebration.

    “Everyone’s got on board and everyone’s happy about coming together,” Richards said.

    With Richard’s charitable organization, the Cheeseburger Babies Foundation, as its title presenter, the new community event is scheduled to take place at Ballinger Park on Sunday, July 3 from 7-11 p.m., with live entertainment, family games, contests and an aerial fireworks display over the 55-acre park in Mountlake Terrace.

    Richards calls Ballinger Park – made up primarily of the former Lake Ballinger Golf Course – “more conducive” for the community event, although he admits the site does present some challenges.

    There are about 250 parking stalls for personal vehicles in and around Ballinger Park, so getting a large number of attendees to and from the site in the southwest corner of the city may be an issue. Richards has arranged for four 14-passenger vans (from the Vineyard Park at Mountlake Terrace senior living apartments, the Merrill Gardens Senior Living community and Richards’ friend) to shuttle between the park and the Mountlake Terrace Transit Center starting at 5 p.m. on July 3.

    The rustic nature of the park itself became an issue during early planning for the event. “The big thing they’re concerned about is the lighting; there’s no lighting there,” Richards explained, referencing discussions with other civic leaders. “So we’re putting up a nine hundred foot fence to keep people in the safe area – we have to keep them away from the fireworks that are being shot off.”

    “Also they’re concerned that someone may wonder off, walk into the wetlands or something like that,” Richards continued. “So what we’re doing is putting up a fence and then we’re going to have Explorer Boy Scouts on the other side so that people don’t jump over it.”

    Past Mountlake Terrace Independence Day celebrations have been held at Evergreen Playfield, city fields that are more centrally-located among city residents and that have lighting and fences.

    Officials from Fire District 1 and the City of Mountlake Terrace also raised concerns about aerial fireworks being shot in Ballinger Park.

    “Fire District 1 is bringing their light truck and they’re going to have it parked on the other side (of the temporary fencing) so they can light up the field where the fireworks are being shot off to make sure all the embers are out,” Richards said.

    With so many apprehensions being raised early on in the event planning, some city officials were pushing to hold this year’s celebration at Evergreen Playfield, an idea Richards was against from the start.

    “At one point they said we’ll just go ahead and wait until next year to do it at Ballinger and do it (this year) at Evergreen,” Richards recalled. “I said I’ve got all these sponsors on board, I want to do it at Ballinger and I just want to make sure we have a good show.”

    Richards believes this event can be “a good show” and a significant draw for the city because of its unique setting and because of it being scheduled on the day before Independence Day. “There’s so many shows on the Fourth of July,” he said. “Ours will stand out being on the third.”

    Richards cited other advantages for placing the event a day earlier than other Fourth of July celebrations: less expensive for city services (police, park workers, etc.), “a better deal” from the pyrotechnics company handling the fireworks display and an opportunity for people who have to get up early for work on July 5 to enjoy a late night out for family fun.

    “I’ve actually had people call and say thank you for doing that because we can’t go to the Fourth of July fireworks,” Richards stated.

    One call stands out in Richards mind as the event approaches – a call from a family who lives near Ballinger Park and is hosting a birthday party on July 3 for an older relative. “They have over 100 people showing up and they’ve already called the city to say thank you for the fireworks for celebrating his 82nd birthday,” Richards said with a smile.

    Even before this year’s event takes place, Richards is already looking forward to repeating the celebration for years to come. “I keep talking about all these grandiose ideas,” he shared, “but they (other city officials) keep saying can we just get past the first one first.”

    The Mountlake Terrace 3rd of July Celebration
    When: Sunday, July 3, 7–11 p.m.
    Where: Ballinger Park, 23000 Lakeview Drive
    What: First year of what hopes to be an annual event that includes fireworks, live entertainment, games and family activities
    Notes: Limited parking; attendees are encouraged to park at Mountlake Terrace Transit Center (6001-236th Street SW); no alcohol or pets allowed; bags are subject to search at park entrances

    –Story and photo by Doug Petrowski

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