by Don Shinkle, former president and CEO of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, 1998 to 2005
photos by Lloyd Grotjan

Citizens of the Jefferson City area can certainly be proud of our community’s Fourth of July festival, presently called Salute to America. The wide array of festivities all comes together to instill patriotism and pride in America and in our community.

Originally called the 4th of July Fireworks Festival, it was established and supported by the Host Lions Club of Jefferson City. According to the Jefferson City Host Lions Club 60th Anniversary Special Newsletter (published May 1985), “Several years ago, the Host Lions Club joined the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce in sponsoring the 4th of July Fireworks Festival, an exclusive Lions Club event for many years.” This partnership continued until the chamber became the sole organizer in the ’90s.

During my tenure as president and CEO of the Jefferson City Area Chamber of Commerce, the board and I had a vision of a larger, more inclusive festival. We challenged staff and supporters with this vision. I’m so proud that they accepted the challenge. Over the years, new exhibits, concerts, and vendors were added, continually expanding the festival.

Following the 2003 festival, the Chamber Board announced its recommendation that the event should be assigned to a more inclusive group, independent of the Chamber. To that end, community volunteers began working to form a not-for-profit Fourth of July foundation with the goal of creating a working partnership between the city, county, state, chamber, convention and visitors bureau, and event sponsors. The Salute to America Foundation was created and took over the festival in 2004.

The Fourth of July festival has always had the strong support of our business community. Over the years, hundreds of businesses have not only supported the festival financially, but they’ve also, at times, allowed their staff to work tirelessly alongside other volunteers to ensure success. These dedicated individuals not only provide a commitment of hours of event planning leading up to the festival but also spend their own Fourth of July working within the festival.

Jefferson City’s Fourth of July celebration has certainly grown over the years and has continued to be a great source of pride for our community. It is one of the most well-attended celebrations in the state and receives accolades from all over. Salute to America is not only our community’s largest event; it is truly a Capital Celebration!