By Frank Lewis
Although the Civic Forum had to cancel this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display, they are looking forward to several other projects in the future.
After this year’s big fireworks display was called off, the city sent a letter to Gene Arms and asked for its $5,000 donation back and he replied immediately.
“The check has already been given back to them even before City Council the other night,” Arms said.
Arms said, while he has been doing the fireworks show for the last 19 years by himself, membership in the Civic Forum is still going well.
“There’s a lot of them who get busy certain times of the year and they don’t get to participate in a lot of things, but this year just killed us,” Arms said.
Arms said heavy rains and deep mud made this year’s fireworks show impossible.
“We went over to the place in Kentucky where we shoot them from and we had just spent $5,000 in getting the riverbank cleared out over there and (the) River Days (Committee) paid half of it because they use it also,” Arms said. “When we looked at it over there the water had been in that area since last fall and we had mud in there that was probably a foot-and-a-half or knee deep. We couldn’t even get a lawn mower in there to cut the grass.”
Arms said, on the Ohio side of the Ohio River, the road to the riverfront stage was under water and brush was growing alongside. That made it impossible to even consider carrying all of the equipment down over the river bank.
Arms said Civic Forum is still financially stable and can handle the annual fireworks show.
“We were short a couple of sponsors, but we are able to do it and we even make a little money on it for the treasury,” Arms said. “That carries over into the Spelling Bee and the Soap Box Derby.”
Arms said the reason the area did not have a Soap Box Derby this year was because the Civic Forum couldn’t get a sanctioned date from the All-American Soap Box Derby.
Arms goes back a long way with Civic Forum and the Fourth of July fireworks display.
“I’ve been in the Civic Forum since 1950 myself and I have worked the fireworks show every years since that time in some capacity,” Arms said. “It finally got down to the point where we had four members surviving and two of those passed away.”
The organization dwindled to three members, so for a six-year period, the three conducted the annual event by themselves. In recent years the membership has grown back up to around 18.
“I did it the last 19 years by myself,” Arms said. “I just turned 86 Friday and I have every intention of continuing as long as I’m able. It’s an enjoyable thing and I’ve done it so long that it just falls into place. All the concessions call me anywhere from one to two months ahead of time and tell me they are planning on coming in and when they’re going to get here. They come in and set up and everything falls in place.”
Is doing the fireworks display too much of a load for Arms?
“It wasn’t really a load. It’s a labor of love,” Arms said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.