By Ben Olson
If you enjoy the Fourth of July festivities that take place every year, it’s always helpful to give credit to an organization that has been giving back to the community for more than half a century: The Sandpoint Lions Club.
From the first float of the kids parade to the grand finale of the fireworks show at City Beach, the Sandpoint Lions Club is there.
“Our primary emphasis is serving the community,” said former president Tom Dabrowski. “For all of the activities we do, all the money comes back to the community and donated to people who need help. It’s a gratification we get being able to help other people.”
Dabrowski pointed out that the majority of fundraising for the Lions Club comes from their annual raffle. This year’s grand prize is a Polaris side-by-side ATV. The second-place prize is $2,000 in “Bonner Bucks,” which is a shopping spree any place in Bonner County. The third prize is $1,000 cash, and the fourth prize is an unlimited season pass donated by Schweitzer Mountain Resort. This year, the Lions have added a fifth prize: two day passes donated by Silverwood Amusement Park.
Tickets will be sold at the following locations: Thursday, June 30 at Super 1 Foods in Sandpoint and Pierce Automotive in Sagle; Friday, July 1 at Yoke’s in Ponderay; and Saturday at Walmart in Ponderay. On Monday they will be selling tickets before, during and after the parade.
“We’ll be selling tickets all the way up until the drawing just before we shoot off the fireworks,” said Dabrowski.
Though most of the funds for the Fourth of July festivities are raised through the raffle, the Lions Club also depends on donations from the community.
“We get money from donors every year,” said Dabrowski. “For example, Mr. Ben Stein gives us money every year to help pay for fireworks. We also get money from the Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, from local businesses. The donations are very helpful.”
This year’s Fourth of July festivities kick off with the annual Kids’ Parade at 9 a.m. The Lions Club reminds children to stage at the City Parking Lot across from Joel’s Mexican Food by 8:45 a.m.
The Grand Parade—themed “America on Parade”—begins at 10 a.m. and features Wendy Sater as this year’s Grand Marshall.
Dabrowski said the Lions chose Sater this year because of her unflagging dedication to the community: “We really appreciate all that Wendy has done for Toys for Tots, and how she hosts a soup kitchen every week for anyone that wants to come in and get a free meal. She’s always involved with charitable organizations.”
After the Grand Parade, there will be live music by Fiddlin’ Red at the City Beach, followed by belly dancers and a BBQ hosted by the Elks Club.
Before dusk, the spectators begin showing up in droves to spread out blankets and lawn chairs at City Beach in anticipation of the fireworks, and this year is supposed to be another good one.
“The show this year will be as big as last year, and last year’s show was the biggest in years,” said Dabrowski, we pointed out that the fireworks alone cost $15,000, not including all the other peripheral expenses that are involved with putting on the show—all of which is funded by the Sandpoint Lions Club.
For Dabrowski, the reason they raise so much money through the raffles, the flag programs and the Toys for Tots in winter is because of the satisfaction club members feel when they give back to their community.
“When you see a kid who doesn’t have a toy start to smile because they suddenly have something really nice from the Toys for Tots, that’s all it takes,” said Dabrowksi. “It’s the same for the Fourth of July. I like to walk the parade route before the parade and shake the hand of every veteran I can find. That’s the reason we’re doing this.”