June 12, 2001 11:00 pm

By The Observer

The Union County Fireworks Action Committee kicked off its annual fund-raising drive this week, hoping to collect $12,000 for this years show.

The sky will light up with $8,500 worth of fireworks at dusk on July 4 at Community Stadium. Last year $7,000 was spent on fireworks.

Bruce Weimer, La Grandes fire chief and chairman of the Fireworks Action Committee, said the size of the display is being increased by 20 percent because of the publics enthusiastic response to last years show.

Tom Carroll of La Grande again has been selected to provide the display.

In addition, the entertainment at Community Stadium preceding the fireworks show will expand.

A Kiddies Fourth of July Parade, spearheaded by the Downtown Association, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at the stadium. Children are invited to decorate themselves, their bicycles, tricycles and wagons, but not their pets, in an Independence Day theme. The parade will move through the Eastern Oregon University campus and back to the stadium.

A show, featuring three local bands, will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the stadium and continue until just before the fireworks display, Weimer said.

The bands include Nolan Murray and the Nuke Town Cowboys, along with Al Too Loud MacLeod and Mike Mallory and their bands.

Murray is a well-known bluegrass music figure.

Games for children will be put on by La Grande Fire Department personnel, along with a new feature, a ping-pong ball drop.

Children will scurry around to pick up the balls that are blown onto the ground with a giant fan. Some of the ping-pong balls will be marked for prizes.

A variety of food will be available including hamburgers, chicken, kettle corn and cotton candy.

The attorneys told us we were off base, harassing the railroad owners and that we should stop. But its our adopted land-use plan approved by the state and therefore the law of the county, he said.

Hayward said he thinks that the salvage company would be easy to work with. But he added that the counties and local group would have to deal directly with the railroad owners on both the salvage issue and the long-term effort to buy the line.

I think the salvage company is receptive to the idea of going away if we can strike up a deal with the railroad (owners), Hayward said.

Earlier Tuesday, in a closed-circuit television hookup with state Sen. David Nelson and Rep. Mark Simmons in Salem, Hayward said the railroad owners indicated the latest sale price they would accept is $7.2 million.

That is slightly more than ridiculous; half that would be more likely, Hayward said.

Simmons, who said he has been a very reluctant supporter of rails-to-trails, said he has been trying to find $1 million in the state budget to help buy the line.

The local group will try to get state parks officials here before the end of the month to determine if a federal grant can be used to help buy the line.