Tapps Island revitalizing firework show tradition

Tapps Island is revitalizing the decades-old traditional firework show over Lake Tapps on the Fourth of July. The show has been a mainstay for the Bonney Lake community since the 1970s, but Tapps Island General Manager John Clark said funding for the show has flatlined for the last 10 years and he is worried about the show's continued existence.

Tapps Island is hoping to raise $20

Tapps Island is revitalizing the decades-old traditional firework show over Lake Tapps on the Fourth of July.

The show has been a mainstay for the Bonney Lake community since the 1970s, but Tapps Island General Manager John Clark said funding for the show has flatlined for the last 10 years and he is worried about the show’s continued existence.

According to Clark, the show has only pulled in around $10,000 in donations for the past decade. But last year, more than $15,000 was raised, and Clark hopes to raise even more this year.

“My goal this year is no less than $20,000 and an incredible show,” he said, saying if the association reaches its goal, the difference between a $15,000 and a $20,000 will be “dramatically noticeable.”

The Tapps Island Association currently handles all organization surrounding the show, which Clark said is 100 percent financed by donations from the Lake Tapps community, businesses in Bonney Lake and city residents who come to the lake to enjoy the show.

Last year, in an effort to make the show bigger and better than previous years, Tapps Island hired a new pyrotechnic team – the same team that does the fireworks for the Seattle Mariners.

“They did a spectacular job last year and the momentum is growing again,” Clark said.

Although Independence Day is about a month away, Clark said the association needs to raise the funds to make a commitment to the pyrotechnic team by mid-June, before they get reserved for another show.

Check donations can be mailed to the Tapps Island Association office (20818 Island Park Way E) or dropped off. Checks should me made out to the Lake Tapps Fireworks Fund.

Credit card donations are also accepted, and can be made by calling 253-862-6616, extension 1.

“It is a rare event that the entire lake community owns and shares every year with each other,” he said. “It is an event that is as big as the community wants it to become.”

Clark said the only official way to donate money is though checks and credit cards, and any solicitations are not organized by the Tapps Island Association.

The show, which is traditionally held on Outer Island, is expected to start around dusk on July 4, between 9:45 and 10:00 p.m.

History of the show

The very first Lake Tapps firework show was performed in the 1970s and was put on under the guidance of the Lake Tapps Development Company and its founder, Ben Clifford.

Eventually, Clifford began giving control of the Tapps Island Association to Lake Tapps residents in the ’80s and eventually handed off control of the show to the lake’s residents, although he continued to make financial contributions.

With Clifford no longer responsible for the show, Charlie Zelenak stepped up to the plate in the late ’80s, working to keep the Lake Tapps community interested in the show year after year.

Zelenak, who volunteered his time to organize the show, also went through all the paperwork involved with firework shows and coordinated with the local fire departments and Lake Tapps water patrol to ensure the safety of the lake residents.

Zelnack worked hand in hand with Clifford for a decade in order to be able to raise enough money for the show.

Control of the show was handed from resident to resident until it came to Clark in 2009.

Bonney Lake’s changing firework laws

Clark said he would much rather see Bonney Lake residents donate money to organized and safe Lake Tapps firework show than spend it on dangerous personal fireworks, and the city’s new rules on fireworks may persuade residents to do just that.

Last March, the Bonney Lake city council passed Ordinance D-16-04, which tightened the city’s restrictions on fireworks.

Bonney Lake’s new penalties associated with fireworks came into effect as soon as the ordinance was signed by the Mayor on February 23, 2016.

Under the city’s old firework rules, being caught lighting fireworks outside the legal window landed you a misdemeanor. However, the burden of proof needed to issue the misdemeanor was large, so the council reduced the charge to a class 1 civil infraction.

“The burden of proof in a criminal case (misdemeanor) is beyond a reasonable doubt, and the burden in an infraction is ‘proved by a preponderance of the evidence’ – more likely than not,” said Maili Barber, the city’s prosecuting attorney, in a March interview.

A class 1 civil infraction comes with a $550 ticket, while a misdemeanor came with a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or up to 90 days imprisonment.

While the new penalties are now in effect, the new legal window for lighting fireworks wont come into effect until Feb. 23, 2017.

Currently, fireworks can be lit between 9 a.m. July 3 and 11 p.m. July 5.

The window shrinks to 9 a.m. to midnight July 4 in February 2017.

The legal time to set off fireworks to welcome in the New Year remains the same, from 6 p.m. Dec. 31 to 1 a.m. Jan 1.

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