July 4 cleanup at fort a quick, quiet affair

Attendance figures still hazy, but fireworks show will return for a 50th time

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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July 4 was the day for the party. July 5 was the day for cleaning trash, crunching numbers and considering next year's party.

Barely 12 hours after the last starburst had sizzled away, the grounds of Fort Vancouver showed little evidence of the 35,000 or so people who'd sprawled on the grass to watch Wednesday night's fireworks show.

The trash had disappeared and most of the vendors were gone at 11 a.m. Thursday. A work crew was just about ready to haul away the main stage.

The final attendance figures were still a work in progress on Thursday. But the event -- known formally as Independence Day at Fort Vancouver presented by Bank of America -- already is on the 2013 calendar.

"It will definitely be back next year," said Cara Cantonwine, director of programs at the Fort Vancouver National Trust.

And it will be a milestone. Vancouver's 2013 celebration will be the 50th show, Cantonwine said.

"We want to make sure we do something special, and we also need to make sure we are keeping within our budget."

Breaking even

This was the third year the Historic Trust has managed the event, after the fireworks show went on hiatus in 2009 because of financial problems.

The nonprofit trust has been able to keep that budget balanced, with the help of admission fees that were introduced as part of the reboot in 2010.

"With the new fee and the new sponsorship programs, we are breaking even," Cantonwine said. "We are able to cover all the costs and staff time. It is sustainable enough to have it again."

Organizers offered three different ways to buy tickets this year, and they only had an updated count Thursday for one option.

"We sold just under 11,000 (tickets) online," Cantonwine said. The trust always does a brisk walk-up business at the gate each July 4, but a total won't be known until the cash is counted and deposited, she said.

The trust also sold tickets this year through seven Vancouver-area Fred Meyer stores.

Adding up all the ticket sales doesn't necessarily generate an attendance figure, by the way.

"It's always an estimate," Cantonwine said. "Children 12 and younger are free."

Last year, the trust sold 15,000 tickets. Figure in the family factor, with one child for each adult ticket, and the 2011 attendance was "probably 30,000 to 35,000," Cantonwine said.

"This year, it was probably closer to 35 or 40,000," she said.

More than 400 volunteers helped stage this year's event.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history;tom.vogt@columbian.com.