ROGERSVILLE — The original duo who led the Rogersville Fourth of July Celebration to the loftiest of heights for many years have decided to come out of retirement and revive this year’s canceled event.
If nothing else, they believe they can put on a really good fireworks display.
Dr. Blaine Jones founded the celebration in its latest incarnation 30 years ago and led its organizing committee for 25 years. Mark DeWitte was his “sidekick” for the latter 15 years of that tenure, and both retired from the panel in 2016.
Together they brought big-name entertainment to Rogersville for free concerts that, at their peak, attracted 30,000 to 50,000 people.
Last month, the current committee members decided to disband, citing a lack of manpower and funding to continue the event. The only Fourth of July program currently expected to take place is the annual parade, which is organized by a separate group.
On Friday, Jones and DeWitte announced they have decided to get back into the celebration game, so to speak, and attempt to raise funds for the annual fireworks display.
“Call us crazy,” Jones said. “Our wives did, but this is somewhat of a sentimental journey for the both of us.”
Jones told the Times News he’s not sure about planning concerts, food booths and other events in the park for 2021, mainly because there’s no way to predict at this time if public events will be restricted as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
However, one thing they can focus on right now is a fireworks display, which has always been one of the biggest in the region thanks to the generosity of Hawkins County residents Bob and Julie Smith with Dynamic Effects & Fireworks Co.
Traditionally, whatever the Fourth of July Committee spends on fireworks, the Smiths match, basically making the display twice as big. Jones said he’ll need to raise between $12,000 and $15,000 to put on the sort of display that Rogersville has grown accustomed to.
“If we give them $15,000, they’ll do a $30,000 show, and that’s a huge show,” Jones said. “We’re not able to do what we used to do, but I’m thinking if I can go out and get a Food City, and an Eastman, and a Pepsi Cola, or something like that, to come in with some decent money, we can put on a pretty decent fireworks show. I’ve got Bob and Julie on board, and they said they’d be glad to do it.”
Jones said he’s about 95% positive they’ll be able to pull off the fireworks this year. Anything else at the City Park on July 4 is less certain.
“There are some people who are wanting to go ahead and plan just a small event during the day. Maybe a band or two and a few food vendors. They’ll have to understand ahead of time we may have to cancel,” Jones added. “We may work on that with them, but Mark and I thought at least we could have the fireworks show. I can’t fathom the thought of having nothing.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring Rogersville’s fireworks can call Jones at (423) 272-3150.
Jones and DeWitte operate a nonprofit — Four Square Inc. — and all contributions are tax-deductible.
Donations can be mailed to: Rogersville Fourth of July Celebration, P.O. Box 35, Rogersville, TN 37857.