Plans for big GoFourth! celebration canceled, but new group plans smaller July 4 festival; fireworks display still set

A rebranded and expanded Fourth of July celebration planned for next month’s holiday has been canceled, but a handful of Lawrence residents are stepping in to save the city’s Independence Day festivities.

As the Journal-World reported back in April, the “bigger, better” community party and fireworks show had been rechristened as the GoFourth! Festival — and moved from Watson Park to Burcham Park to make room for a larger kids zone area, more vendors, a beer garden and more robust musical offerings — by longtime Lawrence Busker Festival organizer Richard Renner.

When the celebration didn’t receive the public and private funds needed to stage a “well-marketed and well-produced event” earlier this month, Renner decided to cancel, he told the Journal-World Monday.

That’s about when Ryan Shaughnessy took on the task of organizing a new community celebration in its place. For about a week now, Shaughnessy’s company, Fine Thyme Food, has been working with the Lawrence-based advertising agency Pix Ninja Studio on Kaw-Boom, which will still take place from 4 to 11 p.m. July 4 at Burcham Park.

Ryan Shaughnessy took on the task of organizing a new community celebration in place of previous Independence Day celebrations. Kaw-Boom will take place from 4 to 11 p.m. July 4, 2016 at Burcham Park, 200 Indiana St.

Ryan Shaughnessy took on the task of organizing a new community celebration in place of previous Independence Day celebrations. Kaw-Boom will take place from 4 to 11 p.m. July 4, 2016 at Burcham Park, 200 Indiana St.

The event will be smaller in scale than Go Fourth, Shaughnessy says, but will still feature the Lawrence Jaycees’ traditional fireworks display starting at about 9:45 p.m.

“We’ve almost got it all together,” says Shaughnessy, who says the process has been “daunting” so far. “We’re trying to save the Fourth of July. This is not an event for us to make money on. This is an event for us to bring the community together and have a good time.”

So far, he and fellow organizers have secured three bands (they’re hoping for a few more), six food trucks and three cold-food vendors. Free State Brewing Co. will also be selling beer at the event. It’s part of the pared-down lineup (“music, beer, food and good times,” is how Shaughnessy describes it) that is doing without the classic car cruise, bounce houses and expanded fireworks display on the roster for Go Fourth.

Instead, Shaughnessy hopes to bring in a few face painters, balloon artists and local buskers. There’s also the idea of an interactive art project for kids hosted by Theatre Lawrence, but nothing’s concrete yet.

The GoFourth! Festival sought $19,200 in funding from the city’s transient guest tax program, which is funded through the special tax hotel patrons pay, for the proposed fireworks display. Ultimately, the city decided to provide $5,000 instead, an amount consistent with what the city has provided to the fireworks show in the past, said Megan Gilliland, communications manager for the city of Lawrence.

A GoFundMe page was created to raise the needed contributions by June 1, but ended up producing only $240 out of its $5,000 goal.

The city has since transferred the $5,000 allocated for the GoFourth fireworks display to the Kaw-Boom project. The Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau is also offering shuttles from the downtown area to Burcham Park for the festival, a $1,200 commitment made several months ago, Gilliland notes.

“They’re going above and beyond to make sure this happens,” Shaughnessy said.

As for Renner’s plans, GoFourth! 2017 isn’t off the table.

“I’d be happy to try again,” he said. “I’ll start earlier and hopefully we’ll get the funding together in advance."


In other area happenings:

The Eudora United Methodist Church, 2084 North 1300 Road, is hosting a drive-in movie night from 8 to 11 p.m. Friday.

Gates open at 7 p.m., followed by "Looney Tunes" cartoons at 8:15 p.m. and the main event, last year’s blockbuster “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” projected onto a 9-by-16-foot screen at 8:45 p.m. The church is asking for a $5 per-vehicle “free-will offering.”

Attractions also include a “car show” for kids (with trophies being awarded to the best cardboard car or truck) and concessions — think traditional drive-in fare like hotdogs, popcorn, giant pretzels, chips, soda and candy.

Bring blankets and lawn chairs, but please leave the booze at home (church’s orders here, not mine). Activities will be moved inside in the eminent threat of rain. Call Eudora United Methodist Church at 542-3200 for more information.

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