2020 has been a rough year overall, but what put former trauma nurse practitioner Cindy Graff-Kuchinsky over the edge was 4th of July COVID. The town of Palmer Lake was quiet that 4th of July, and after the community sheltered in place for so many weeks, all Graff-Kuchinsky could think was “Oh my God, we can’t let this happen. [again].”
So she got to work, asking the city board for permission to hold a 2021 festival the fourth in Palmer Lake, and received approval in late April 2021. Although she had no experience in event planning, Graff-Kuchinsky led a celebration for a crowd she estimates at around 10,000 people. The event included food trucks, bands, games and, of course, fireworks. She worked hard to organize the festival in just nine weeks despite a flurry of last-minute changes and the abandonment of some of her volunteers. Remembering the time crunch she was in at this time last year – and knowing she would be adding a dunk tank, disc golf tournament and obstacle course this year – Graff-Kuchinsky launched the 2022 festival planning in November.
As for the fireworks, Graff-Kuchinsky says Palmer Lake has a tradition that dates back to the mid-20th century, when the fire department was responsible for the display. She’s been a fireworks fanatic since she first saw the colorful bursts when she was 4 years old, and as a resident of the city since 2012, she remembers the fireworks the most. most years on July 4, except between 2013 and 2015 when drought and state legal restrictions kept the lake dry.
Community involvement is in Graff-Kuchinsky’s DNA. When she moved to Palmer Lake, she immediately joined the Palmer Lake Restoration Project when she saw the lake was drying up. She has also been on the fireworks committee since 2016 and took over as its director in 2019. The 4th of July festival is run entirely by volunteers and relies heavily on donations. Local vendors donate food and musicians agree to play for free as the entire team works to keep the event free to the public.
“Volunteering is harder than working,” says Graff-Kuchinsky. “It’s not like my eight hour shift in the trauma unit…it just goes on and on and you get phone calls in the middle of the night.” But she’s kind of a pain in the ass when she talks about putting on the festival, like running to buy 1,600 hot dog buns, dealing with naysayers, and fundraising isn’t a huge feat.
Graff-Kuchinsky says she looks forward to a successful event and just wants people to have fun. “That’s what it’s all about,” she says.
Star Spangled Symphony 4th of July Block Party
Colorado Springs Philharmonic’s Free Star Spangled Symphony will be the centerpiece of the 4th of July block party downtown that includes food, music, games and more. The outdoor party takes place from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on the street in front of the Pikes Peak Center, 190 S. Cascade Ave.. The indoor concert is first come, first seated (doors 3:30 p.m., concert 4:30 p.m.-6 p.m.).
Where can I watch fireworks?
There is a map showing in-person or porch viewing locations of the Springs area fireworks, but if you’re heading out of town to celebrate this 4th of July, check out the state Google map of fireworks.