Aulne’s tradition began with a hole
Kevin Fruechting, 60, of Marion was in his 20s when Aulne United Methodist Church began having fireworks displays during the Fourth of July holiday.
The event and expenditures on fireworks have grown every year.
The event is the Sunday before or the Sunday after the Fourth. This year it will be July 7.
“We don’t want to interfere with any other communities’ celebrations,” Kevin said.
The event started small. His father, Don Freuchting, and Jerry Siebert decided to buy fireworks at a stand in Marion, combine them with other people’s fireworks, and put on a show for the church congregation.
The second year, Kevin’s uncle Duane Freuchting brought fireworks from western Kansas. The men dug a hole from which to fire mortars. The display was combined with an ice cream social, as it is today.
Don Freuchting died in January, and Siebert said he couldn’t remember that first event.
“Don and I did a lot of things together,” he said. “I can vaguely remember it, now that you mention it.”
He was involved in displays until 1998, when he had a stroke.
“I was in the hospital in Wichita when the fireworks were being lighted,” he said. “Mike Freuchting or maybe Davy Hett stepped up to take my place.”
Others started helping, including Kevin and his brother, Mike. They dug more mortar holes and expanded the fireworks.
Mike acquired technician certification, allowing the men to launch larger fireworks.
They bought “set” pieces, in which a whole bunch would fire at once and form an image, such as a flag, on a framework.
Then they started buying “cake” pieces, which shot 10 or 15 aerials in quick succession.
For the past seven years, after a couple of scary incidents, they have hired a professional technician. Fireworks last from 15 to 20 minutes.
The church sponsors the event and invites the community to attend. A donation basket is available.
“It’s our favorite activity because it brings so many people out,” Kevin said.
Families and friends gather on the church grounds in lawn chairs or on blankets while children run around and play. Average attendance is 500, but one time 1,000 came, Kevin said.
Country and gospel music by Bob and the Boys will begin at 7 p.m.; the ice cream social, at 8 p.m.Last year, 350 were served. Church members provided more than 20 freezers of ice cream.
“It’s always fun to see the variety of flavors they bring,” Kevin said.