At around this time in years past, fireworks stands run by churches and nonprofits would normally be going up in Bend. But this year, folks will have to go to surrounding areas like Redmond and Prineville to buy and sell off any fireworks for the upcoming Fourth of July.
When the City of Bend’s temporary fireworks ban went into effect in late June 2021, the shock was real.
“It took away 75% of our revenue, so that was unfortunate,” said Mark Gering, a Pastor at Faith Christian Center.
“[We made] probably 45% of what we made the previous summer,” said Pastor Jack Dennis from Believers Cornerstone Church.
Bend City Council passed an ordinance in October, banning the sale and use of fireworks permanently in city limits.
This is the first summer that some local organizations have experienced the total loss of funds raised through firework sales.
“We usually were able to normally raise between $15-$25 thousand for our youth and kids programs, so with zero this year, we’re kind of looking for ways to make up for that,” Gering said.
The church has been able to keep its After School Kids Lab program afloat with the help of savings, and the fact that expenses were lower when programs ceased during the pandemic.
They plan to approach some local businesses to request donations and hold some smaller fundraisers, like this Saturday’s ‘un-garage sale’ in their parking lot.
Ed Forsythe, the President of Discount Fireworks Superstore, said they used to have only two locations in Bend before this year but the profits were substantial in any given summer.
“They probably brought in, combined, $300,000 in sales,” he said.
The organization allows churches to fundraise through their tents, and the money has been used to send hundreds of kids to summer camp each year, as well as building an orphanage in India and helping families escape the Ukraine crisis.
They now have 80 locations across Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Arizona.
That includes locations in Redmond, Prineville and Madras.
“We have given them a little bit more fireworks, because I’m sure there are going to be more people going over there and buying from there in those locations,” he said.
Because the business has a wider canvas to work with, making up for the lost funds in Bend hasn’t been difficult.
“What we did is we managed to find some other locations in other cities that are legal, and we brought those fireworks to those other cities…we opened more in Salem, Oregon and we opened some more around Portland, Oregon,” Forsythe said.
Believers Cornerstone Church is still able to run their stand in Redmond, which they’ve been running for 17 years. They use it to raise funds for a women’s shelter, sending kids to camp, and relief efforts in Ukraine and Haiti.
But losing the Bend location is a blow.
“We haven’t been able to make it up…we just ain’t able to do what we would like to do…when you don’t got any income from your charity, you can’t give any charity,” Dennis said.
He was disappointed with the decision from City Council.
“I think Bend needs to take another hard look, get the public involved, let them meet with them,” he said. “This year is the wettest spring we’ve had in [many] years. But no fireworks in Bend because they’re so afraid of fire. I think it’s missing the mark.”
Gering felt the same way, but said he wanted to make the most of the situation.
“We’ve been celebrating the Fourth of July with fireworks for how many decades in this country, and just recently that’s become an issue…I don’t agree with the decision, but we just gotta move on…we want to be solutions-focused and not just frustrated about things we can’t control,” he said.
Fireworks stands in other areas in Central Oregon open up on June 24th, the day after they become legal to sell under Oregon law.