Milton FFA Alumni will no longer coordinate Milton’s Independence Day Celebration or the fireworks show at Schilberg Park.
Brian Paul, Milton FFA Alumni Fourth of July chairman, announced Monday that the group is stepping away from the celebration, which has included a variety of events and attractions over the years. (The announcement does not include the parade, coordinated by Milton resident Derek Henze, who on Monday said a traditional parade is planned.)
“While it has been very rewarding to hear the positive feedback and see the excitement stemming from the fireworks, the Milton FFA Alumni has decided to step away from this activity,” Paul said. “Due to less volunteers and more family commitments, it is increasingly harder to manage the celebration.”
Milton FFA Alumni took over the Independence Day Celebration from the now defunct Jaycees in 1992 and Paul said in 1998 Schilberg Park was built with the celebration in mind. In fact, it was Milton FFA Alumni member Wally Schilberg who donated 40 acres of land to the Milton School District for the purpose of a park.
Depending, in part, on what day of the week July 4 was, the Independence Day Celebration has been a four- or five-day event with softball tournaments and most recently, a two-day event.
Carnival rides, concerts, softball, youth baseball, kickball and basketball competitions and the beer tent drew many from out of town to Schilberg Park.
In 2020, Milton FFA Alumni had planned to add a flea market, but on May 10, following recommendations of the county health department, the city and school district, canceled the entire Independence Day Celebration.
Paul said: “Milton FFA Alumni would like to thank so many people and businesses that have helped with this great event over the past 30 years that we cannot possibly name them all individually. There are the thousands of volunteers, numerous businesses that donated thousands of dollars, and leadership that put in countless hours.”
He credits the leadership and vision of retired Milton High School teacher Bob Johnson for building the event. Johnson started at MHS in 1980, taught agriculture education and was the FFA advisor. He retired in 2012 as dean of students.
“Most of all,” Paul said, “the Milton FFA Alumni would like to thank all the people who ever watched the fireworks or participated in the any of the activities. We hope that we helped provide at least one great memory for everyone.”
Who will step up to continue the tradition is yet to be determined.
From food stands to running events, Paul said a two-day celebration requires about 100 volunteers, which have included the members of Milton FFA and 10 to 15 other organizations each year. In addition, community organizations and businesses used the event as a way to raise funds for themselves.
For the most part, Paul said Milton FFA Alumni did not have other fundraisers to support the Independence Day Celebration but tried to have the Independence Day Celebration support itself.
“We’ve done a good job in the past couple of years of finding sponsors to cover the fireworks,” Paul said.
The price tag for fireworks in 2018 and 2019 was $20,000 each year.
“We are very hopeful that this is not the end of the fireworks show,” Paul said.
If any groups want to take over, he is willing to help with the transition. Paul can be reached at (608) 449-5447.
Understanding the importance of the event to the community, Milton Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dani Stivarius said possibly other organizations or even the chamber itself might take on coordination of the Independence Day Celebration. At this point, she said discussions are taking place.