As the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce prepares for this annual event, they will be including a special guest this year to help celebrate its 25th anniversary. Her name is Cheryl Dooley, the historian for the 4th of July Community Fireworks, and the original coordinator for the first fireworks display. “We are pleased that Cheryl will “do the plunger” in honor of her service 25 years ago,” stated Debra-Lynn Schmitz Executive Director of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce.
Here’s a look back at how this tradition began in our Q&A with Cheryl.
A; Initially, we felt a need to honor the men and women who served in Desert Storm. Downtown Sarasota was the only group at that time with an annual fireworks show; however, there was always a concern for how it would be funded. Siesta Key knew they could find benefactors who would eventually see the need for a patriotic event honoring our freedom.
Q; Who initially participated in the first Fireworks display?
A; Carlos Giordano of Nova Enterprise, a long-time resident of Sarasota was the pyrotechnic for the first 10 years. My dear friends Sharon Cunningham, Aledia Tush & Ann Johnson were wonderful supporters, along with many of my friends, family and volunteers. Currently, Zambelli Fireworks has taken over this honor.
Q; How did you fund the initial Fireworks display?
A; Since it was the first year, we couldn’t just contact last year’s sponsors so I began campaigning all the businesses and residents on and off the island. It was tough the first year but with the support of the community we made it work. The greatest expense was the water barge the County required for the pyrotechnic. After the first year, the County allowed the fireworks to be shot from the beach with security measures. This helped tremendously with the costs incurred.
The barge, the fireworks, security and food were the main expenses that first year. The barge fees were raised by BBQ’s out East, garage sales and friend drives; the fireworks were provided by Nova Enterprise. Security and food were funded and served by Cheryl and friends of Siesta Key. After the first 10 years of BBQ’s out East, Mattison’s & Ophelia’s stepped in and took over the food part of the party.
Cheryl was very proud to say in her time coordinating the Fireworks, they were never rained out.
Q; What’s your best memory of the first fireworks display?
A; During the Fireworks display, a young Hispanic family with small children were watching the show. They had their American flags and were saying we love America! Thank God for the fireworks!
Q; Where you a Chamber member?
A; Yes, my family became members in the 70’s. Then in the 90’s I was on the Board and became Board President for a few years.
Q; What did the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce look like 25 years ago?
A; The Chamber was more of a social club than a business club. I had a new vision when I entered the Chamber Board which included communications with local zoning authorities, school board discussions, Commissioner Meetings and governing committees, liaison with the Sheriff Department and advocate for economic development and a voice for Key businesses. We did continue the social aspect with local business card exchanges to encourage B2B reciprocations.
The Chamber was initially run by volunteers. Eventually, we had two part-time employees as we gained members. Our 1st Chamber office was located off the Key on Stickney Point Road inside the Stevens & Salt Inc. Real Estate office. The 2nd Chamber office was located on the corner of Mir Mar & Ocean Blvd and then finally they gained their own office space. At that time, we were mailing out many New Residence Packets and kept a last minute accommodation locations list for traveling tourists.
Q; What were the Chamber issues?
A; Siesta then was zoned for 63 units per acre for condominium development. During my Chair, we had this changed to 5 units per acre and eventually worked on the overlay district when Troy Sypress was on the Board.
Q; Did you own a business on the island?
A; Yes, my family owned the Hardware Store on Siesta Key for 32 years (1973 – 2005). You can still find the Hardware Store sitting at its same location today.
Q; What did Siesta Key look like 25 years ago?
A; Siesta Key was known as an artist/writer enclave. The Village was full of beach cottages and antique & clothing shops. There were no mcmansions at that time. Many of the local businesses were family run and the streets rolled up at dark.
Q; Who else would be Historians for the Chamber of Commerce & Siesta Key?
A; Sharon Cunningham of Cunningham Property Management, Aledia Tush of CB’s Saltwater Outfitters, Ann Johnson formerly of the Pelican Press.
Come join the Celebration, July 4th VIP Party – Open to the public – Limited space, $150 provides donor with reserved parking at Siesta Key Public Beach and entrance for 2 to the catered picnic; food, beer, wine, soft drinks and live entertainment by Ted Stevens & the Doo Shots. New this year – KID ZONE! Contact Terri Schubel, Volunteers, Events and Marketing Manager at the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce: 941-349-4800