Ilwaco reborn

Ilwaco's Independence Day weekend fireworks illuminate a port and town that are in the midst of a major renaissance, with new streets, galleries, award-winning restaurants and other attractions. TIMM COLLINS photo

ILWACO — Should the City of Ilwaco continue hosting its annual Independence Day fireworks display?

That was a major focus at the council’s Nov. 26 meeting.

The council was scheduled to make a decision on whether to approve a $16,500 fireworks contract. After discussing the contract, members ultimately decided to table a decision on the contract, as some councilors want input on whether the fireworks are valued by the community and the Ilwaco Merchants Association.

“I’d like to know that we’re providing something to the businesses in Ilwaco that wouldn’t generally be there when we’re spending large amounts of money,” Councilor Jared Oakes said. “If we didn’t spend the money on the fireworks, would it have any recourse for the city?”

Oakes said he isn’t “anti-fireworks” but would like to know whether the fireworks display is like a “cherry on top” expenditure or if the merchants association values the display.

The council will decide at a later meeting whether to approve the contract. If approved, the contract would commit the city to purchasing fireworks for 2019 through 2021. Fireworks would come from Western Display Fireworks, the same vendor the city has used for about 15 years.

Mayor Gary Forner said the council didn’t have to look into other possible fireworks operators, as Western is the “sole operator in this area.” Councilor Matt Lesnau questioned whether Forner was right. Lesnau also pointed out this was the first time the city had been requested to commit to a multiple-year contract.

The cost of the fireworks has been budgeted at $12,500 for the 2019 display. The Port of Ilwaco pledged $2,500. The Ilwaco Merchants Association pledged $2,000.

The city’s funding would come primarily from the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, which would contribute $10,000. An additional $2,500 would be transferred from the tourism fund to the general fund to cover any additional costs.

Councilor Missy Bageant voiced support for keeping the fireworks, saying they’re unique compared to Long Beach festivities. Long Beach’s show is always on July 4, regardless of what day of the week it falls, whereas Ilwaco’s typically are planned for a weekend night just before or after the 4th.

“The Long Beach celebration isn’t really relevant; you can’t tell which one is which at the beach,” Bageant said.

“There is something to our little town and those few times a year where everyone rushes to Ilwaco. Are you going to come to Ilwaco or go to the beach and watch all the crazy ones there?”

Councilor Kristen Mathison also voiced support for the fireworks celebration but said she’d like to explore lowering the cost of the fireworks.

“I wouldn’t want to see nothing happen but I wouldn’t want to see it cost $17,000,” Mathison said.

Mathison questioned what the cost may look like if the city didn’t sign the three-year contract and instead went with a one-year contract. Forner said he’s sure the company would “jack up” prices for the city.

The fireworks company has requested a decision from the council by Dec. 28.

Councilor Kenneth Sprague suggested hosting a public hearing to gather input on whether to continue hosting the fireworks celebration. At publication time, a hearing hadn’t been scheduled.


Ilwaco City Council meets the second and fourth Monday of the month. The council’s next meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 10, in the community room, attached to the Ilwaco Timberland Regional Library branch.

Meetings are open to the public.

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