Chicago Should Look to Seattle for Taste

Seattle: The small city that came together to save its fireworks.

By now you’ve probably heard that there will be no Taste of Chicago fireworks at Grant Park on July 3rd this year.  No fireworks at Montrose Harbor or 59th Street Beach, either. Just the regularly scheduled Navy Pier display, which McPier puts on every few days throughout the summer for the benefit of tourists and conventioneers.

Fireworks at Navy Pier

Not surprisingly, the big problem is money.  According to the Sun-Times, the fireworks in 2010 cost $110,000, plus $756,476 for police.  Coming up with almost $870,000 is tough these days in a city that’s running a $720 million deficit.

So, it’s time for a creative solution.  I propose finding inspiration in the land of slackers and hackers: Seattle.

A couple of years ago, the Emerald City had to cancel its Independence Day fireworks because the city was out of money.  What happened was a groundswell of popular support for the annual show.  Individuals and corporations came together and funded what, just like in Chicago, is the one festival that unites every one of its citizens.

This year, the people stepped up once again (Click here to see the complete donor list).

Marquee companies like Microsoft and Starbucks each chipped in $125,000.  Nordstrom ponied up $25k.  The Boeing Employees Credit Union and a produce company are in for 10 grand each.  All kinds of big names chipped in: Adobe, Safeco, Coca-Cola, a local Marriott, microbreweries, local fast food chains, restaurants, hospitals, exterminators, cheesemakers, and more.  And while we’re used to our sports teams take, take, taking; the Seattle Seahawks threw in a thousand dollars.

Over 250 companies, individuals, and anonymous donors chipped in to raise over half a million dollars in donations and sponsorships to save the event.

Another picture of Seattle, just because we had one lying around. From our sister site,

If a city as small as Seattle (608,000 people in the city, 3.4 million in the metro) can raise $500,000+ surely Chicago (2.6 million people in the city, 9.4 million in the metro) can come up with $870,000.

Where are Chicago’s corporate “leaders” on this?  How about the Cubs and Sox and Bulls and Bears giving a little bit back to the fans that have supported them through thick and thin?  How about the CEOs of each of the huge banks lining LaSalle Street have lunch at Subway instead of their private dining rooms one day and chip in $500.  What about the biggest companies in the city: Walgreen’s, ADM, Kraft, Sears, Reyes Holdings, CDW, US Foodservice, and HAVI Group? Boeing I’ll let off the hook since it didn’t contribute to the Seattle effort, either.

And what about the people of Chicago?  Hundreds of individuals in Seattle contributed between $1 and $1,000 to its fireworks effort.  If every person in Chicago chipped in 40¢, we’d have this thing covered.  Since the Taste fireworks are traditionally a regional event, if every person in the Chicago metro chipped in a dime, we’d have more than enough.

I know times are tough for everyone.  Heck, I’m paying my rent on a credit card hoping things will get better somewhere down the road.  But I’m still willing to chip in a buck or ten to save this event.  And if you, or your company, aren’t willing to do the same, then I suggest it might be time for you to turn in your city sticker, put your things in a red handkerchief tied to the end of a stick, and get on the next Greyhound to Iowa.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at

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