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Fueling Fireworks

Great Falls Friends donates money for 10th annual Fourth of July celebration.

The Fourth of July may be four months away, but the citizens of Great Falls already have visions of fireworks lighting up before their eyes.

"Everyone loves the Fourth of July and everyone loves the fireworks," said Janet Servis, co-president of Great Falls Friends. "They are better than downtown."

At last week's Great Falls Friends meeting at the Old Brogue Irish Pub, the community organization presented cash donations to the Great Falls volunteer fire department, the Fairfax County police officers of the Reston District station and the Friends of the Great Falls Fireworks.

"We would like to express our deepest gratitude to the people who make the Fourth of July happen," said Servis. "What a lot of us don't realize is what goes on behind the scenes."

The Great Falls Fourth of July celebration originally began in the 1950's, but eventually fizzled due to insurance reasons for the Great Falls Fire Department. However, 10 years ago, Mike Kearney, owner of the Old Brogue, decided to re-start the tradition.

"Mike pretty much funded it out of his own pocket based on his love of the community," said Jeff Rainey, chair of the Great Falls Friends of the Fireworks.

Kearney paid for the fireworks for two years, and then the community made it an annual fund-raising event.

"Last year was the first year that the community 100 percent funded it on its own," said Kearney. "So we put some of that away, and would like to eventually start an endowment ... but we're just so happy that we finally crested the hill and that we are well on our way."

As this year will be the 10th anniversary, the Friends of the Great Falls Fireworks would like to celebrate accordingly.

"This year we want to make it the biggest, most spectacular fireworks celebration that we've ever had," said Rainey.

Great Falls Fireworks member Peter Garahan pointed out that funding is crucial to the Fourth of July celebration.

"This event is a little different because fireworks are very expensive," said Garahan.

The Great Falls Friends presented checks for $500 each to the fire department and the police department, and a check for $2,000 to the Friends of the Great Falls Fireworks.

"I look at these as community outreach events," said past fire department chief Homer Johns. "Of course we don't want anything to happen, but we are there in case anything does."

Auxiliary Police Officer Fernando Ortiz accepted the check for the Reston Police station officers. Ortiz said that he personally puts in approximately 1,000 hours of volunteer police work a year.

"We appreciate being able to help with all of the events that we do," said Ortiz. "What is paramount is people's safety ... but it's a beautiful event and we all like to celebrate it together."

*To make donations please make checks payable to Friends of the Fireworks and mail them to Friends of the Fireworks, P.O. Box 295, Great Falls, VA 22066.

On Saturday, March 11, at 10 a.m., Great Falls residents are invited to a Friends of the Fireworks meeting at the Snuggery in the Old Brogue Irish Pub in the Great Falls Village Center. The Friends of the Fireworks are looking for volunteers for this year's Fourth of July celebration. For more information, please contact Janet Jameson at JTJameson@cox.net.