Jeff Worrell made the decision that the Spark Buttons would go dark this year.
“Spark Buttons is a loved tradition and one that I’m not giving up on,” said Worrell, who started selling Spark Buttons to raise money to help pay for CarmelFest fireworks in 1994.
However, Worrell said the decision came down to his own conscience when they were determining whether CarmelFest would be held this year. The Spark Buttons are sold for $5 in a plastic bag with $50 to $100 worth of coupons from businesses. Worrell would order 2,500 Spark Buttons each year.
“A key component is asking our local business community to not only give a coupon of value but also print up 2,500 of those coupons, which is an expense,” Worrell said. “So, I personally did not feel it was appropriate for me to run around asking our local business community for a handout when they were all just recovering from the (COVID-19) pandemic. That was the first component of the decision.”
Traditionally, Worrell said mom-and-pop businesses were the main source of the Spark Buttons, and many of those were the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Worrell, a Carmel City Council member who oversees the fireworks as a longtime CarmelFest volunteer, said there also was just a short time to sell before the decision was made that CarmelFest could be held.
Worrell said generally, the Spark Buttons sales would raise approximately $10,000 to $14,000, which would help cover the cost of fireworks, which cost $42,500 in 2019.
In 2020, CarmelFest only held fireworks and had three different shows to allow viewers to watch without gathering in a single area. This year, fireworks will be held on two nights, July 4 and 5, for the first time. Fireworks will be held on the east and west side of the city on July 4 and in central Carmel July 5.
Worrell said the three were popular and people clamored for it to continue.
“I budgeted the amount of money we will need to do three shows, knowing I could supplement that with Spark Buttons if we did them, but I didn’t have to do it with the Spark Buttons,” he said. “I have three shows fully funded by the City of Carmel, so this year we are good to go.”
Worrell lost his No. 1 Spark Buttons salesperson when Jack Badger died at age 81 in October 2018.
“Credit me with good recruiting, that guy could sell ice to Eskimos and wouldn’t take no for an answer,” said Worrell, who assured Spark Buttons will return in 2022.