At the time of this feature’s publication, the good people of Elko had recently celebrated the 4th of July 2019. For many, it was a day of sunshine, grilled foods, good company, and patriotic t-shirts. It was a day of bliss and fun that built to a climax of dazzling fireworks filling the skies with various colors and its spectators with oohs and aahs. We here at AAT hope you enjoyed yourself that day very much! However, we also want to pose a question. Have you ever stopped to wonder who puts on that celebration event and how exactly it’s made possible? If so, you’re in luck! This week, Elko’s People Site is going behind the scenes of Elko’s people event!
Today, AAT is joined, once again, by business owner and state assemblymen, John Ellison! Why is John sitting down with us for an article about Elko’s Independence Day celebration? You see, when asked to assume who exactly oversees putting on the event every year, most people would say the city or the county holds responsibility. However, when it comes to financially paying for the event, the city and county only make up less than ten percent of the donated funds. An assortment of local businesses, organizations, and individuals come together to help pay the steep price tag of putting on a July 4th show. Practically, when it comes to the responsibility of running the show, one may conclude that teams of dedicated staff members and volunteers work vigorously to make it happen. What’s the reality? 2019’s celebration show (from the events at the fairgrounds to the fireworks) were overseen by John Ellison, Charlie Myers (Elko Broadcasting), and their respected families.
Thank you for making time for us again, John. For over two decades, your and Charlie’s families have been working hard to make the event possible, but how did the responsibility of it all fall onto you?
“I was a city councilman at the time. The VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) came in and told me how they would do a six thousand dollar show every year, but they had to sell food throughout the year to break even because they couldn’t raise the money. So, they gave me the money they had left and told me they couldn’t do it anymore; it was too much work. Well, we couldn’t go without celebrating Independence Day! With how many people died for this country, our freedom, and our independence, we couldn’t just walk away from it! So, I took it! I had to take one hundred percent responsibility for it.
“One year, I went to my wife and told her we might have to sell one of our cars to make the event happen. We did make it that year, but it was only by the skin of our teeth.”
If you were not able to see it for yourself, Elko’s celebration is a patriotic festivity that tries to incorporate various local cultures to celebrate the country. John, what exactly goes into making this event such a great time for so many families?
“It took months of preparation to make a show this big happen. Our families started working on this event in January when we had to make our deposit. However, I couldn’t start raising money for it until June 7th because I can’t fundraise while the assembly is in session. So, we had less than thirty days to raise the money. We spent hours working on it, and we barely got it done. My wife got sick and had to go lay down at one point during the day of the event because the heat was so bad, but she got back up and came back out! We don’t really get to sit down and watch the show ourselves because we’re running around, checking in on everything. We’re running from six in the morning on the 4th until after midnight the next morning because we have to help clean everything when it’s done. We’re actually in the design phase for next year’s event right now.”
What kinds of support do you and Charlie get when it comes to executing all of this, John?
“Different businesses and sponsors, such as the Lions Club, will pitch in to pay for things like food, drinks, rooms for the pyros to come down who will run the fireworks, signage and posters, groundskeepers, promotions, programs.
“One time this year, I reached out to an outfit out of California and asked if they were going to sponsor the event as they had in the past. They sent me a letter back saying they didn’t see any financial award to their company if they did, so they were not going to. That was the wrong thing to say! I sent them a letter back, and when their big bosses flew in, I talked to them about it. They tried to address me as “assemblyman” when responding, but I stopped them and told them that I’m not assemblyman; I’m John Ellison! This had nothing to do with state assembly; it was about Elko’s Independence Day. I don’t care if you don’t want to put a dime in, but don’t tell me how honoring the sacrifice men and women made for this country isn’t of financial value to your company. I was testy!”
John, can you tell us, point-blank, what would happen to the event if the Ellison and Myers families decided they couldn’t commit to organizing and running the celebration anymore?
“It would go away.
“However, this is not about John Ellison or Charlie Myers! This is about our community! Our community needs to be involved! So, come out and help us! We need volunteers and people with ideas to join us! We need your support! It’s the people’s show; it belongs to the community!”
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See you around, Elko!
Written by: Anthony Crosby
Edited by: Nadara Merrill
Featured Image by: Michelle Mosley