American Towns Find New Ways To Fund Fireworks Displays Despite Budget Shortfalls
Fourth of July has come to be best represented by the fireworks that light up the skies of American cities. But this year, many celebrations across the country will have none of the pop, fizz and bang of years past.
With tax revenues down, many cities just can't fit them into the budget.
For some towns in Massachusetts, Missouri and Texas, opting against fireworks this year has to do more with natural disasters, including floods, tornadoes and droughts, than anything else. But for many others, it is budget cuts, not poor weather, that will inhibit the Independence Day event.
Smaller cities and towns especially lack the resources for fireworks shows. The city of Lehigh Acres, Florida has cancelled its show, as have several towns in Coachella Valley, California. In these cases, like many others, the money just wasn’t there, or needed to be used for more urgent needs, like food and financial outreach programs.
And it's not just small towns, either. Even bigger cities like Chicago and Cincinnati can’t afford fireworks displays, which typically run from $7,500 for smaller local shows to up to millions of dollars for huge multi-day events.
For some, though, the possibility of having a fireworks display now lays in the hands of the corporations willing to sponsor them.
Residents of New Britain, Connecticut, for example, were so disappointed with this year’s planned cancellation that they rallied around Liberty Mutual's "Bring Back the 4th” contest, which offered $10,000 fireworks grants to the 10 towns that most participated. New Britain ended up one of the contest winners and, in the process of drumming up support, amassed around another $40,000 in personal and organizational donations, leading them to exceed the budget for last year's display, FOX Business reports.
For Falls Church, Virginia, thrift has been the answer. Instead of looking for outside donations, the town was able to keep its fireworks by scaling back other special town events happening this summer.
It’s unclear what effect the lack of publicly-funded fireworks will have on the companies who put them on. Most of the revenue of fireworks companies comes from privately-funded clients. Zambelli Fireworks, founded in 1893, gets 60 to 65 percent of its business from companies and private organizations, FOX Business reports.
However, one fireworks company who’s been in the business for about 20 years says it’s feeling the burn this year more than ever. Dan Miller, senior vice president for Indiana-based Mad Bomber Fireworks Productions, estimated in Chicago area paper The Courier-News that business is down by about 10 percent compared to three years ago.
Budget cuts, corporate sponsors and sales revenue aside, towns with cancelled fireworks will likely feel that they’ve missed out on an important community building activity this year. Maybe that's why so many went to such lengths to save them.
“At the end of the display, you can look out and see all that individual attention focused on the show." Miller is quoted in The Courier-News. "What else can you do where you make that many people happy at one time?”