BY LAURA QUEZADA
News Review staff writer
The community is invited to attend and support free Ridgecrest Fireworks on Saturday, July 2 at the Desert Empire Fairgrounds. Doors open at 4pm, the show begins at 9pm. This year’s event is presented by the City of Ridgecrest, Friends of the Fair, organized by volunteers Caiti Whitfield of Flight Line Tap Room, Mike Birdwell of Ridgecrest Shoutouts, Scott Miller of Tutu’s Catering and Keller Williams Realty, with the finale sponsored by the Ridgecrest Lions Club. For 25 years the fireworks show had been presented by the Ridgecrest Lions Club with their President Steven Morgan coordinating for many of those years. Their last show was in 2017. When there were no fireworks in 2018, the community was upset. Ridgecrest native, Mike Birdwell, decided to take charge. “Growing up here I remember fireworks happening every year,” Birdwell says. In 2018 and 2021 the Lions Club allowed him to run things to gain the experience to ultimately take it over himself. He decided to expand beyond fireworks and created a community event with merchandise vendors, food vendors and music.
When Caiti Whitfield and Scott Miller learned that Birdwell was doing it all on his own, they stepped up to assist. Whitfield is in charge of sponsorship, Miller is in charge of vendors, and Birdwell is in charge of volunteers.
“I’m the guy who walks in vendor’s shoes, so I was the right person to take on the role of vendor coordination,” says Miller. “This year we have 11-12 food vendors, everything from barbecue to shave ice to kettle corn to lemonade to baked goods. Almost all of them are local people, local vendors.” All of the food vendor slots are full, but other vendors can check in on the website, RidgecrestFireworks.com, to request inclusion.
“It’s important to the community to have a celebration like this, says Miller. “The coming together. It’s a time where the community puts away its political differences. It is a time for celebration and coming together.”
“We need enough money to cover all the licensing to cover the actual paying of the space for the fairgrounds, even though we’re getting it discounted,” says Whitfield. “We need to pay for the trash pickup. We need to pay for the fireworks. There are a lot of expenses.” She will make sure sponsors get recognition. If sponsorship comes in too late to add to their banner, they will be sure to give recognition via Facebook and Instagram. She adds, “Anything we don’t spend this year goes to future firework shows.” Regarding volunteers, Whitfield tells us, “The security is all volunteer. We need specific volunteers to check bags, to run security, to serve as runners during the event.” They can be reached via their webpage.
They are pleased to announce that this year the music entertainment is by DJ Melanie Christy who is donating her services. “The parking logistics the day of the event is being provided by the Disturbed Souls Motorcycle Club, because that’s something else that you can’t do without v o l u n t e e r s . Parking would be anarchy. They are accepting donations, as people see fit, to donate to their club, but really, they’re volunteers,” said Whitfield.
“It was really important for us to keep this as a zero cost event for the community. We don’t want to charge admission; we don’t want to charge for parking. That being said, whether you’re enjoying the fireworks from the fairgrounds or if you’re sitting in your backyard, if you’re enjoying them, you can donate to help ensure the success of future years.
I think it brings the community together. This is an event that everybody can enjoy. Anybody can step outside of their front door or they can go to the fairgrounds and they can be a part of this. This is one thing that really brings the community together that’s not COVID or an earthquake.” She volunteered because “I just like doing events and it was a huge event last year. For one person to be doing it all by themselves,” she pauses. “I really thought that I could help with it.”
This event falls about a month before the Whitfields leave Ridgecrest. Volunteering for the fireworks “wasn’t meant to be a last hurrah. It was meant for me to do something year after year.” Caiti and her husband, Jake, moved to Ridgecrest to be near family. Flight Line Tap Room is situated next to their family’s business, Infinite Movement Academy. The academy was forced to close due to circumstances similar to why Ridgecrest doesn’t have a pool. “They are our family. They are the whole reason we moved here. Where they go, we go.”
Flight Line Tap Room will be in good hands and continue to be the family- friendly environment the Whitfields created. She tells the story of the new owners’ dedication to the business. “We were only open for seven weeks when we had to close our doors because of COVID. We could only do curbside. Every one of our customers knew what we had the potential of being even more than we did because the day that we closed people lined up out the door to buy gift cards because they didn’t want us to go. Someone who bought the biggest gift card, a $500 gift card, and didn’t use it for a year, was Eric and Ross. They’re going to be our new owners.”
It appears that Caiti will be contributing to her new community in a well- deserved position. She tells us, “I just got a job in Reno as the Event Coordinator for the Boys and Girls Club (Club). I have 20 years experience with the Club. I worked for two different Clubs in Petaluma and St. Helena. I was a Club kid when I was little. I left the Club to be closer to my family because they live down here. And there’s no Club in Ridgecrest. So it’s going be nice to be part of the Club family again. I love the Boys and Girls Club.”
Miller captures the essence of Ridgecrest Fireworks when he says, “Just enjoy. It’s been a very tumultuous couple of years here in Ridgecrest. It’s a free event at our local community event center, Desert Empire Fairgrounds. Meet and mingle, have some food, have some drinks, have some fun.”