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Wasatch County
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Wasatch High School Marching Band Fundraises with Banned Fireworks to Fulfill Contract

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Ben Lasseter/KPCW
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With extreme drought and fire restrictions, some locals are questioning why firework vendors are still open this summer.

For the Wasatch High School marching band, it ws a complicated decision to go through with its annual fireworks fundraiser, weighing a contract with a fireworks company, trying to raise enough money to go to competitions next year and the current public safety restrictions that ban the use of fireworks in Wasatch County.

“I think a lot of people don’t actually realize what it takes to run a marching band," said John Ryszka, director. "We go on competitions throughout Utah, and we do end up at state in St. George just about every year, and it costs a lot for the group to be able to function. That’s show concepts, and we have some additional staff we like to bring in to help out with teaching the kids, instruments, uniforms, props.”

A few weeks ago, the band held a mattress sale, which Ryszka said was pretty successful.

For the past four years, the July 4th firework sale has provided the majority of the money the band uses. The band keeps 17 percent of total sales for running the tent for the fireworks company, Phantom. That raised $20,000 last year.

This year, the group almost decided against doing the fundraiser at all because, Ryszka said, the group wanted to avoid contributing to the risk of fire.

But it was more complicated than that. Part of the agreement with Phantom Fireworks is to open every year, or pay a fine and risk losing the chance to do the fundraiser next year.

“We use this fundraiser because it’s really great for us. It pays for about two-thirds of our student fees for the marching band in just 12 days. But the downside to that, they have expectations of what we need to do," Ryszka said.

If it hadn't been for the contract, the group may have cancelled the sale.

"We met with parents a few weeks ago, and we were like ‘well, can we get out of this?’ We of course want people to be safe and responsible. This year with the fireworks ban, this can be a big, major problem for some people if they’re lighting them off,” the director said.

So, the group has found ways to promote safety while selling product.

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Credit Ben Lasseter/KPCW
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The fundraiser is selling these fire extinguishers, donated by AAA Layton.

For the first time this year, they’re selling fire extinguishers, which they received as a donation.

They also display signs explaining the current drought restrictions. Some of those explicitly say fireworks are banned.

Students and parents who work at the tent remind people to save the fireworks for later or use them outside the county.

“We’re gonna continue to be responsible and let the community know that, and hopefully things turn out well for our students,” Ryszka said.

Supporters of the marching band have set up ways to donate to the fundraiser. To contribute, stop by the tent at the intersection of Heber Main Street and 500 North between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. this week, or send an electronic payment with Venmo to username @KimberlyRyszka.

John Ryszka says the band can also offer sponsorship opportunities to local businesses.

Fireworks are banned everywhere in Wasatch County, including all cities and towns. On Saturday night, Midway City is putting on a public show, which will be the only fireworks allowed in the area.

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