More bang for the buck
As has been the case for the past couple of recession-strained years, several cities are canceling or curtailing their July 4 fireworks displays to save money. Chicago has canceled its display, as have New Britain, Conn., and Jersey City, N.J., according to media reports. American City & County asked the readers of its weekly e-mail newsletters how communities can save on celebrations for July 4 and other holidays without cancelling them. Below are some of the responses.
“Get with some of the Indian tribes that operate casinos [if one is available in your area]. Several have fireworks shows planned for the 4th of July. In Oklahoma, the cities of Kingston, Goldsby, Newcastle, and Thackerville are near casinos that have fireworks shows. They have celebrations planned, [after which] people go to the casinos nearby to see the show. The promotions departments at the casinos work with the communities to help coordinate the events. It works out well for all involved.”
— Rick Carson, Chickasaw Nation emergency manager, Ada, Okla.
“Instead of cutting activities, Steubenville, [Ohio,] along with the Chamber of Commerce, Steubenville City Schools [and area businesses] have partnered to bring all day events to the city [on] July 3, including a family fun zone, vendors, LEGO play area from the Bellaire Brick & Toy Museum, a classic car show, open swim at the city’s Belleview Pool, a senior luncheon and bingo. [There also will be] a concert, and ending the evening will be a fireworks show. While the concert is not free, all of the other events are free to our residents. Just as in the operation of local government, we are having to collaborate with other communities to continue to offer the services to our businesses, residents and visitors, so it makes sense that we have the same approach with special events and celebrations in our community.”
— Cathy Davison, city manager, Steubenville, Ohio
“When I was in western Maryland , our city got sponsors, mostly local businesses to support the celebration, like fireworks, and gave them naming rights to the event. We also did the same thing for our bicentennial celebration, which lasted almost a year. Certain specific activities were set up for sponsorships and within our budget we identified possible events for private sector participation. A lot of volunteers also make these celebrations possible, as does the scheduling of pre- and post-celebration set up , barricading, trash collection and police protection, with as much done on regular time/work day or flex time to avoid overtime. Nothing Earth shattering here, but as the fiscal conditions continue their doldrums and the jobless recovery of the public sector, two years after the recession seemingly ended for some parts of our national economy, local governments are making decisions on necessity/mandates v. ‘nice to do things,’ and often the quality of life items fall by the wayside.”
— Jay Gsell, county manager, Genesee County, N.Y. “It seems that many communities have been faced with the tough decision of canceling their Fourth of July fireworks displays, or they have to make budgetary cuts elsewhere throughout the year. It can be very hard to explain why the city spent $75,000 on a 10 minute firework display, while they are laying off or reducing employee compensation. Coming from the Chicago area, where we have over 100 separate suburbs, the logical solution seems that these communities should partner or combine their firework displays. I live in a community of less than 2,500 people and a half square mile [area], yet every community feels that it has to compete with the neighbors for a patriotic fireworks event. The reality is that it would be better and more patriotic if multiple communities pooled their resources and put on collective displays. Instead of the current competition between communities, we should, especially during this holiday, promote cooperation and consolidation of these events. American independence was only possible through collective action of all of the colonies within the confederation. Perhaps we would even have better displays through this pooling of resources across political boundaries and communities. Admittedly this will not work everywhere, [but] it certainly has some merit which could be further developed.”
— Jon Kindseth, management assistant, Westchester, Ill.
“The city of Bandon, Ore., is small. We placed an area on our utility billing where customers agree to pay $1 per month on their utility billing with the money going to our July 4th fireworks display. This is a strictly voluntary item that they pay and they can stop at any time.”
— Beverly Lanier, administrative assistant, Bandon, Ore.
“I believe if four or five communities could combine some of their available funds, they could put on quite a show and benefit business and the communities all at the same time. It could be done in a location central to all of those surrounding communities. The area chosen should be large enough to accommodate the potentially larger crowd than would occur in any one of the communities, possibly five times larger than the largest of the communities. It could be a boon to local merchants, if turned into a kind of festival with food vendors, music, games and rides or other entertainment. It could also be combined with charity events, bike rides/race, running races or fun events such as old time sack races, softball games, or volley ball tournaments, etc.”
— Dave Skiff, staff assistant, Better Power Inc., Rochester, N.Y.