Amazon.com helps sponsor Lake Union fireworks, blunting criticism

Jul 4, 2012

Amazon.com says it’s helping sponsor the fireworks display at Seattle’s Lake Union. It’s a first for the company, which drew criticism in a Seattle Times article for a lack of philanthropy around the city.

Amazon.com is joining the main sponsors, Starbucks and Microsoft, in keeping the fireworks display alive. The festival has struggled for the past few years to find sponsors after Washington Mutual collapsed and J.P. Morgan Chase, which bought WaMu, chose not to support the event.

Former Seattle City Council member Jan Drago has criticized Amazon in the past for failing to share its wealth in the community. She says Amazon’s support of the fireworks is a good first step.

"Not only are they making a contribution to the civic fiber of the city, but also to the neighborhood where they’re located," Drago said.

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce has taken over fundraising for the event the past two years. Amazon executive John Schoettler recently joined the board of the chamber, and after that, the company decided to contribute to the fireworks festival.

“As a member of the South Lake Union neighborhood, we’re delighted to be supporting the Family 4th at Lake Union, which is taking place right in our backyard,” said Schoettler, Director of Global Real Estate and Facilities at Amazon, in a statement.  “We look forward to joining the Seattle community to enjoy this year’s festivities.”

An Amazon spokeswoman declined additional comment, although she pointed to a company web site that highlights Amazon's charitable giving, including to Seattle groups such as Art with Heart and HopeLink. One Reel, the non-profit that manages the festival, wouldn’t say how much Amazon is contributing to the total $500,000. Jon Stone is executive director of One Reel. He says fundraising has been tough the past few years, but he’s gratified that private companies have stepped up.

"Times are tough and most big cities are canceling their events outright, so I can’t complain," Stone said.   

Stone says he expects more than a half million people to attend the festival. The fireworks start at 10 pm and will also be televised on KING 5.