Like a quarterback heaving a Hail Mary pass to the end zone in a football game’s the final seconds, Tim Matykiewicz hopes to save an Independence Day fireworks show in Ahwatukee.
But he’s going to need his “teammates” – neighbors in the community he’s called home for more than a decade – to cross the goal line.
Matykiewicz, president/CEO of Arizona Events Group, has given himself a Fathers Day deadline to raise the $18,500 he needs to put on the show and party on July 2.
So far, he’s collected $80, adoring to gofundme.com/help-keep-fireworks-in-ahwatukee. The site is his collection point for donations.
“I just like fireworks,” he said. “I’m thinking about the community. It’s down to quality of life. People ask what’s the big deal about events. It’s a big deal. That’s why I am in business I want people to enjoy themselves.”
Like thousands of other residents, Matykiewicz was bummed by the Ahwatukee Foothills Chamber of Commerce announcement last month that it couldn’t afford to put on its popular Red, White and Boom! Independence Day party and fireworks show this year.
The chamber had hoped to partner with an unidentified organization that had been interested in financing the 41st annual party, but the group pulled out at the last minute.
Chamber President/CEO Lindy Lutz Cash said that didn’t leave enough time to find another partner.
Besides, she said, finding a site in Ahwatukee to stage the fireworks was next to impossible because the South Mountain Freeway construction eliminated the Pecos Road staging site.
Matykiewicz said he has been working with city officials to stage fireworks July 2 at Desert Foothills Park, with a party running from 6-11 p.m. in the nearby parking lot of Native Grill and Wings on E. Chandler Boulevard near Desert Foothills Parkway.
Native owner Rod Ticknor is helping him plan the party, which would include a beer garden with food, bounce houses, vendors and other attractions – similar to the chamber’s pre-fireworks festivities. The last two years, that festival was held at Pecos Park.
The fireworks alone cost $10,000 and even that’s coming at a discount. Ahwatukee residents Kerry and Lori Welty, owners of Fireworks Productions of Arizona, have agreed to provide an extra $3,000 in explosives for free, Matykiewicz said.
Matykiewicz said he’s working with city officials, and admitted some of them have reservations about setting off fireworks in a park surrounded by private homes. But he said the rockets incinerate at least 300 feet above ground, leaving no embers falling to earth.
While the city requires applications for fireworks and other related permits to be filed no later than 10 days before the actual event, Matykiewicz said he doesn’t want to wait that long.
“I just don’t like putting the city in that position and filing the applications at the last minute,” he said. “That’s not the way I do things.”
Matykiewicz is no stranger to staging public spectacles; it’s been his livelihood for 20 years.
While he’s been on two Super Bowl planning committees and is a life member of the Fiesta Bowl Committee, his fulltime job these days is putting on the Arizona Balloon Festival, which will be held for the seventh consecutive year next February in Goodyear.
Although hot-air balloon festivals draw crowds that can exert a multi-million-dollar impact on the region, they’re getting increasingly difficult to organize because many municipalities don’t want the hassles, he said.
“You need a lot of space for the balloons, not just space on site but in the air,”
he said, noting that all the East Valley cities already have banned them.
While attending Colorado Christian University in the 1980s on an athletics scholarship, Matykiewicz fell in love with events promotion after he was recruited to organize student activities.
A standard feature at his balloon festivals happens to be fireworks shows.
“You don’t have to make them real long," he said, adding that his shows last no more than 15 minutes.
He staged a fireworks show in Gilbert atop the town hall roof. The show went off without a hitch, he said, calling it proof that a show at Foothills Park would be safe.
Besides individual contributions from residents, Matykiewicz also is reaching out to businesses, and has put together several sponsorship packages on the gofundme site.
As what would happen to donations if he doesn't make his goal, Matykiewicz replied, "That’s our intent - to return funds if we don’t reach our goal." He also posted that pledge on the Gofund Me page.
Asked what would happen if bad weather forced cancellation of the fireworks show as it did a few years ago, Matykiewicz called it a "gray area," although he said he is looking into cancellation insurance.
“Right now, it’s really all about raising the money,” he said. “The event business is tough. You have to get sponsors, deal with local government, but if you have the will and the support, you can get it done.”
Matykiewicz also said he’s not interested in taking over Ahwatukee’s Independence Day celebration every year.
“I’m not saying this is an annual thing, I’m just saying I’m doing this this year,” he said. “I’m not interested in replacing the chamber.”
Despite the tepid response so far on gofundme.com, Matykiewicz remains hopeful he can pull off the show.
“It’s human nature to wait,” he said. “Nobody sees it as a crisis until you say, ‘Hey, it’s a crisis.’”
And with his self-imposed deadline for raising the cash looming, Matykiewicz said the crisis is now.