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Chamber: 2020 without Clear Lake fireworks displays meant funds for improvements

Chamber: 2020 without Clear Lake fireworks displays meant funds for improvements


A photo from the 2018 fireworks display in Clear Lake. 

There may have been a silver lining to the cancellation of the Clear Lake Fourth of July Celebration in 2020.

While heartbroken about the cancellation, which was announced last May due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed the Clear Lake Area Chamber of Commerce to make much-needed improvements to some of the equipment used for the popular fireworks display over the lake each year, said Stacy Doughan, chamber president and CEO.

Rusty Olson, Clear Lake Fireworks Committee with Josh Schulze, announced the improvements via Facebook on Jan. 1.

“It was with a heavy heart we had to make the tough decision of canceling this awesome event in 2020, I can assure you that no one involved in this event wanted that to happen. However with every setback you typically find a window of opportunity,” he posted. “I am excited that we have been able to appropriate some funds for improvement on equipment for the fireworks display.”

The fireworks display over Clear Lake is provided by Flashing Thunder Fireworks of Mitchell.

The USS Arlene Hughes, which is one of four barges the committee uses for the fireworks display, was in need of a new outboard engine, Olson said, and thanks to Stomer Powersports & Marine of Klemme and Al’s Marine of Wesley, the barge will have a new one this summer.

The barge is named after Arlene Hughes, a generous supporter of the fireworks display who died in September 2010.

She donated $14,000 for the construction of a new fireworks barge in 2004.

The other three barges are named the USS Luker, in memory of the late Larry Luker, of Clear Lake, who was in charge of the fireworks display during the Fourth of July and Christmas by the Lake for many years; the USS Fredriksen, in memory of the late Laurence Fredriksen, of Clear Lake, who built the fireworks barges; and the USS Volunteer, Olson said, noting that the committee uses unpowered barges, as well.

Clear Lake fireworks

A photo from the 2017 Fourth of July fireworks finale in Clear Lake.

A new storage shed for boat rigging will also be added to the fireworks committee’s dry dock area with cooperation from Brandt’s Dock and Hoist Services in Clear Lake, he said.

“There are a lot of people who care about Clear Lake and they’ve been a blessing to work with,” Olson said. “We can’t do it without them.”

The improvements were funded by the Clear Lake Fireworks Endowment Fund, Doughan said.

The endowment fund began with a $50,000 gift from the estate of Hughes earmarked for the Fourth of July fireworks in 2011 to help ensure that the display would continue for years to come.

Hughes and her late husband, Dick, owned and operated the Rose Bowl in Mason City for many years.


A photo from the 2018 fireworks display in Clear Lake. 

She was named grand marshal of the 2010 Clear Lake Fourth of July parade because of her support for the community, especially the its Fourth of July celebration.

The cancellation of Clear Lake’s Fourth of July Celebration in 2020 marked the first time the celebration, which draws tens of thousands of people to downtown Clear Lake to celebrate the Fourth of July, didn’t take place.

In its place, the local governing bodies in Clear Lake, Mason City and Cerro Gordo County teamed up with the Mason City Exchange Club to offer their residents a safe and legal opportunity to enjoy fireworks over the holiday weekend at the North Iowa Events Center.

As for this year’s Fourth of July Celebration in Clear Lake?

Olson and Doughan said they hope Clear Lake can offer its fireworks display again, but no one knows what the next seven months will bring.

“The best we can do right now is have optimism and look forward to the future,” Olson said. “2021 is a new year and we’re all praying it’ll get better.”

Ashley Stewart covers Clear Lake and arts and entertainment in North Iowa for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at or by phone at 641-421-0533. Follow Ashley on Twitter at GGastewart.


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