Leland Fireworks saved by concerned citizens

, ,

Photo by Elijah Allen

By Abby Chatfield

Sun contributor

Watching the Fourth of July parade with her husband, Greg, in front of their home on South Main Street in Leland carries extra special sentiment for Mary Kuntz. Not only is it her favorite part of the celebrations, but it reminds her of how she won the jackpot living in Leland. “It was always my dream to live here,” she shared, but Greg wasn’t initially that fond of Leland. His vacations here were always a steady stream of rain, with the exception of his first visit, when the couple stayed in a rental on Main Street and loved every bit of it.

As a joke, Mary’s father gave Greg a Leelanau Enterprise subscription. Subsequently, Greg fell in love with Leland through the stories and news he read, and he acquiesced to having a home in Leland under one condition. The couple must live on Main Street.

Besides the parade, they sometimes also watch Leland’s fireworks from the end of Pine Street near Main, a grand display that takes place at dusk on July 3 from Hancock Field. Mary was out of town last February when she learned from social media that the 2024 Leland Wine and Food Festival was canceled. When Mary returned home in late March, another Leland resident, Cheryl VanZee (Shorty), made her aware of the implications the wine fest’s cancellation would have for Leland. The Leland Chamber of Commerce depends on this annual fundraiser for funds to support the summer fireworks, winter holiday lights, and village beautification. “She would throw herself down on M22 for this town,” Mary said about Shorty.

With Shorty as a catalyst and Mary with quick resources, the two set about to save the fireworks. The Leland residents launched an awareness campaign that not only raised the money needed to secure Leland’s 2024 firework display but also informed the public about what the Leland Chamber does. Although not a chamber member, Mary is an active community member involved in a number of local organizations. “It was eye opening for the community,” Mary said. The duo made yard signs and flyers, contacted the Leelanau Enterprise for a story, and worked with the Leland Chamber to push a donation drive. Within less than a month, the $15,000 necessary to secure a fireworks show was achieved. “People were so generous. Everybody stepped up and could not believe fireworks may not happen,” Mary said.

When we discussed Mary’s and Shorty’s fundraising efforts, Leland Chamber of Commerce President Mark Morton was on vacation in Ohio, shooting muskets at a North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) sponsored regional competition, as an avid enthusiast of the unique firearm used during the American Civil War.

Mark coordinates the Leland fireworks and confirmed that the village hired a different company than usual for its 2024 show. Wolverine Fireworks Display, the same company that executes Northport’s fireworks, is working on Leland’s display for the first time this year. According to Mark, there were a couple of $1,000 donors and approximately 85 people total that donated to reach the $15,000 goal. Most incoming donations were received through a “Donate” link on the Leland Chamber’s website, and although all necessary funds were raised, the option to donate to the fireworks still remains. Any donations collected since the 2024 goal was reached will be applied to the 2025 fireworks, since money from the 2024 wine fest would have covered a deposit required for the following year’s fireworks.

The Leland Chamber is already working to find a location for next year’s wine fest with some things in the works, but according to Mark, nothing is official yet. The chamber needs to address the lack of funds for Light Up Leland, the village’s holiday light display, and will likely set up a donation drive for the effort as well. But for now, all is well in Leland and the annual Fourth fireworks will prevail.