Will Fireworks Shows Survive the Recession?

Will budget problems dampen the wicks?

If you’re an American, what are you doing to celebrate the Fourth of July this year. Are you checking out the fireworks shows? I know that I’ll be taking my children to see something in my neighborhood, even though my little son is still a little bit frightened by the loud noises. But how can you not love a sky filled with sparkling colored diamonds and trails of glory making a shining road map of the night?

In a healthy, controlled way, we love to blow stuff up. I think it’s one of the requirements of being an American. But blowing stuff up is expensive, something most of us don’t need any more of these days. Not only is the stuff part expensive, but so are the explosives (if you want it done right). Fast cash for sparklers, quick cash for cherry bombs – wait, wait, that’s not legal in most places. Forget I said that. But don’t forget the fast cash and quick cash; they’re perfectly legal and perfectly fine for what ails your budget in the short term.

But where have all the boom booms gone?

MSNBC reports that the skies will be silent over places like Colorado Springs, Colorado this July 4th. The recession has struck hard, and many cities are feeling the pinch. To the disappointment of the 50,000-plus who normally show up for the annual fireworks show, the Colorado Springs City Council voted to cancel the show in the interests of saving money. The well of donors has mostly dried up, so they had no other choice.

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Typically, local business sponsorships and Chamber of Commerce money is enough to fund much of what is required, but the cities themselves still have other expenses to cover. Things like overtime for police, fire and emergency crews, public works cleanup and liability insurance and huge issues, according to Cranston, Rhode Island Mayor Allan Fung. Worker layoffs, tax increases and public service cutbacks make fireworks shows seem a bit less important.

Their guns won’t fire

Here are just a few of the places MSNBC notes are cutting back on fireworks shows for July 4:

  • Even though Springfield, Missouri plans to host the National Fireworks Association’s annual convention in 2010, budget cutbacks have forced them to turn away an expected crowd of 70,000 this year
  • In Michael Moore’s hometown of Flint, Michigan, city officials canceled their fireworks shows. Not long after,  the Downtown Development Authority ponied up $10,000 to light up the skies. It was back on… until Flint canceled the show again! Apparently the donation came too late for the city to make service plans for the event
  • Public donations were needed for fireworks shows in Charles Town, West Virginia. Last year’s show reportedly cost the city $17,000. Unfortunately, they fell short. Happy July 4… let’s play Yahtzee!

Is your city man enough? Big and bad enough?

“These are the things people look forward to,” said Utica, New York Mayor David Roefaro. “They love the fireworks. It’s part of America.”

It’s all a matter of how much you want fireworks shows, I suppose. In Gilbertsville, Kentucky, businesses and community leaders teamed up to raise $5,000 to save the annual show at Lake Bartley Resort. This came after the state canceled shows in its state parks, to the disappointment of all.

“It didn’t take us maybe an hour to get the funds necessary to have a decent show, and that’s what we’ve done,” said local businessman Walter Taylor. “We just didn’t want it to stop.”

Worse luck next year

Light a candle, cause thats all youre getting

Light a candle, 'cause that's all you're getting

While last-ditch efforts may have saved numerous fireworks shows around the country this year, next year may not be so lucky. New Orleans’ Dueling Barges Fireworks Extravaganza – ranked the nation’s best by priceline.com – will not happen next year unless donors come through with all of the money. Salt Lake City’s show at Sugar House Park (Utah’s biggest fireworks show) will need a lot more money if the rockets are to launch in 2010. Their show costs around $27,000, money that the city has decided is more important to retain for upkeep in next year’s budget.

Lex Hemphill, president of the Park Authority board, said that “Nobody on the board is happy to be facing this, but we just have a greater demand for the use of that money now than fireworks.”

Is there no quick cash? No fast cash? Will love of patriotism explode in the skies again?

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