It's quite an experience operating a fireworks stand for one week in the middle of a Fresno Summer. We at Gay Central Valley decided some time back to try our hand at this once a year fundraising opportunity. We didn't have much of an idea what we were getting into. We had no reference since none of us have ever done it before. Still, we took on the task. To get a license to operate a fireworks stand in Fresno you have to be an official nonprofit organization, then submit your application and hope for the best. Not everyone gets chosen, and it's basically luck of the draw. Amazingly enough, we were lucky right on our first attempt.
It took weeks of planning, lots of phone calls and classes at the TNT warehouse. As June 28th approached, it seemed there was more and more detail to navigate through. Then came our first day, on Monday, June 28th, which turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, topping out at 107 degrees. While we officially opened at Noon on June 28th, every day following was a 13 hour day, from 9am to 10pm. Our stand was situated on the barren, dirt lot at the corner of Palm & Olive. Don't get me wrong, we were thrilled to get a Tower District location, which we didn't have at first, but a big dirt lot presents its own set of obstacles. Every day we sustained through the heat and the constant dust to keep things running.
Any sort of electricity is a luxury in a fireworks stand, which is basically a big wooden frame with shelves in the front and back, a wood door at either end, and wire mesh between you and the customers. We hooked up our generator which allowed us the use of a cash register, fans, calculators, an occasional radio, and lights once it got dark. On a dirt lot as we were, it's a fairly primitive atmosphere.
Each and every day our entire supply of fireworks had to be picked up from our storage unit at the TNT warehouse, and then delivered to the stand in boxes. There, it was taken out and set up. Then, each and every day, at the close of the day, everything in the stand has to be boxed up and moved back out, leaving nothing but the shell of the stand. That's not just unsold fireworks, but all things we needed to operate. Let's just say, it's an intensive operation. Add to that such things as additional runs to storage as you run out of items, plus runs for food, drinks, supplies, banking, etc. Although we went into the week with very little knowledge, we ended it with a lot of experience and new knowledge. Next year will be easier.
But with all the variables and details, I can easily point to one aspect of this operation that allowed us to succeed. Our volunteers. Those who selflessly gave their time and energy to this fundraising event were nothing short of AMAZING. Without them, we would have collapsed early on. And to watch them come in on a daily basis, facing the conditions we were faced with, was inspiring. Everyone pulled together and gave more than we could have hoped for. I don't want to list everyone by name here because I would inevitably neglect to mention someone and I don't want that to happen. Let me just say that the board members of Gay Central Valley cannot possibly express our gratitude to all the volunteers, as well as the individuals, groups and organizations that came together to provide us with a staff, donations, food, drink and support through this last week. While the Board of Directors of Gay Central Valley were faced with our own issues during this time, it was the volunteers and others who kept the stand up and running and made the entire effort a great success. Please accept our heartfelt thanks. And a big thanks to all in the community who chose to purchase their fireworks this year at our stand. Gay Central Valley in continuously grateful for all the community support.
Yes, we're doing it again next year, but right now we really just want to appreciate all those who stepped up to the plate to help us so that we can in turn help the community.
Standing ovation to all of you...