Marietta Fireworks – Building a Legacy of Community Service

Written by Mark Herman
As I approach my 60th birthday, I’ve become more compelled to look back on my life, thinking through the things I’ve done and why I’ve done them. What have I done that was good, bad, ugly, or indifferent?
Well, what I’ve realized is that I’ve done my fair share of all of those things, but being that this is a community newsletter I’ll choose to focus on the positives. The things I’m most proud of so far in my life are the wonderful family I’ve been entrusted with and my opportunities to serve others in a wide variety of ways over the past several decades. Whether it was coaching youth sports, serving as a youth leader, organizing community service events, or being part of mission trips serving on a local, national, and global level. I have always found some of my greatest and most meaningful moments have come from serving others. I’ve often been asked what it was that inspired me to give up several weeks of vacation and countless hours each year to serve others in often less-than-desirable and sometimes dangerous environments. The answer to that is an easy one… the Marietta Fireworks.
As a child growing up in Marietta in the 70s and early 80s, the highlight of my year was the week-long Fireworks Carnival at War Memorial Park. While I enjoyed the rides, games, bands, food, and fireworks, I didn’t realize how much I was being imprinted by the level of community service that was going on around me. Being too young to belong, I was typically tagging along on the outside of the JayCee’s watching my older brothers and other men (and, unofficially, their wives who were “guiding” them) spend countless hours organizing, planning, and working during the carnival. I savored each opportunity to work alongside them in any way I could, watching them rise early each morning and serving late into the night doing whatever it took for them to make this a wonderful experience for the town. As I think back, I realize that many of them were probably raising families and taking valuable time off work to volunteer hundreds of free hours; often sleeping at the park and probably not getting more than 4-5 hours of sleep per night. But with all that hard work, I also saw the joy that came with serving while listening to their nightly “do you remember when” stories and watching countless games of Marietta Rounds. Or seeing the smiles that would cross their face when hearing people say “Marietta fireworks are the best!”
Fast forward to today and I’m still excited about being able to serve alongside some incredible people who are fully committed to keeping Marietta Fireworks a vital part of the local community. And what makes this even more special is that this event has never had endless resources or the ability to just hire others to get things done for them. The fireworks team has always been made up of local volunteers who sacrifice their time and resources to pull off one of the area’s largest and most beloved displays while maintaining a high level of quality and safety.
Throughout the year, Gary Schatz and his core team are strategizing and planning for the next event while ensuring that anyone directly involved in the actual show is properly trained and prepared. Meetings are held to gain constant feedback and to make sure the dozens of tasks are being handled. Blue collar, white collar, no collar… it doesn’t matter… everyone dives in to do their part.
One final (and perhaps most important) thing I’ve learned about service throughout my lifetime is that very few things happen without money. Even with unlimited hours being donated by volunteers, all service events live and die by financial donations. And, of course, the Marietta Fireworks are no different. I’m sure if asked what his least favorite part of his year is, Gary Schatz would quickly answer “Fundraising.” Unfortunately, no matter how much work the team does to control costs, things get more expensive every year. Fortunately, however, Marietta is blessed with a community of individuals and businesses who generously donate year after year to make the fireworks a reality. Whether it’s a few dollars in the donation buckets at CBC,
Marietta Day, and the Memorial Day Parades or sizable checks from businesses and individuals, this (like every year’s) Marietta Fireworks event desperately needs your donations to continue.
The first meeting of 2024 was recently held at McCleary’s Pub to officially kick off the home stretch for this year’s Marietta Fireworks which will be held on Thursday, July 4th. (That’s right… Thursday!)
It truly does take a village so please check out the Marietta Fireworks Facebook page or website ( to keep up-to-date on the developing schedule or to donate today. Or better yet, find out how you can become part of the team. Who knows, you just might inspire some lucky youth to pursue a life in community service.