Flagging in the Fourth | Independence Day celebration takes long-time planning

A crew with Avalanche Concert, Lighting & Stage erects the main stage Wednesday for the Fourth of July celebration in Bellevue Downtown Park on Friday. - Brandon Macz
A crew with Avalanche Concert, Lighting & Stage erects the main stage Wednesday for the Fourth of July celebration in Bellevue Downtown Park on Friday.
— image credit: Brandon Macz

At 23 years and counting, Bellevue is host to the largest Fourth of July celebration on the Eastside – an undertaking organizers say they don't take lightly.

Friday's celebration marks the culmination of more than a year of planning, says Cherie Clayton, parks and community services program manager for the city of Bellevue, which partners with the Bellevue Downtown Association to offer up live music, games, food and a traditional fireworks finale.

"We seriously do start talking about it the next day, as we're cleaning up the (Downtown) Park, because it's fresh in our minds," said Mike Ogliore, BDA vice president of events and operations.

The Bellevue Collection again will be the main sponsor of the event, offering up free parking at its three garages and providing rooftop space for staging the fireworks that make up an 18-minute display. PACCAR and Puget Sound Energy are presenting sponsors and Republic Services is sponsoring the stage.

"We are so fortunate over the many years that we've co-produced this to have so much strong support from our businesses in the community," said BDA President Patrick Bannon. "Sponsorship creates awareness for the event, but also value."

The fireworks show itself is a complicated process, made easier through the use of consoles that allow the operator to conduct the ceremony safely and efficiently.

"It's thousands upon thousands of units being set off over the 17-18 minutes as the show goes on," Ogliore said. "It's choreographed, it's science and it's amazing."

Robin Haaseth for Bellevue Parks and Community Services said the Bellevue Parks Family Fun Zone will be back, and plans are to offer more free activities, including toy making. Celebrity mascots children will get to meet include Captain America and Ronald McDonald.

More than just entertainment, Haaseth said there is a lot of coordination with other city departments like police and fire to ensure safe transportation to and from the park and promote safety during the event. Even before the event, the city works with the BDA to ensure all required permits are issued.

The Bellevue Youth Symphony Orchestra also will be back for its third year at the Fourth in Downtown Park, providing musical entertainment before, during and after the fireworks show. Executive Director Trudi Jackson said the orchestra finished its fourth and final rehearsal Monday. The youth orchestra stepped in for the event when the Bellevue Philharmonic disbanded.

"We have actually a lot of Bellevue Philharmonic alumni who act as coaches and play side by side with our youth orchestra kids," Jackson said, adding BYSO alums are also welcomed back to play the Fourth.

There will be classical and the obligatory patriotic tunes, but Jackson said participants also can expect contemporary music that appeals to youths, such as scores from World of Warcraft or "Star Trek Into Darkness."

Jackson said there is the added benefit of performing beyond the fireworks display because it encourages people to stay in the park longer, alleviating some of the departing traffic.


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