Less bang, fewer bucks in Fergus Falls
Lack of bucks means less bang this July Fourth for many cash-strapped cities. For others, like Fergus Falls, Minn., the tough economy has snuffed the holiday's snap, crackle, boom. "I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people that are going to b...
Lack of bucks means less bang this July Fourth for many cash-strapped cities.
For others, like Fergus Falls, Minn., the tough economy has snuffed the holiday's snap, crackle, boom.
"I'm sure there's going to be a lot of people that are going to be disappointed," said Lisa Litt, chairwoman for a group that's kept the fuse lit on the Fergus Falls display for several years.
Litt said many businesses declined to donate due to layoffs or tight budgets.
Her group wanted to raise $15,000 to $20,000 for the event, which has been put on July 3 to save cash, but when they hit the fundraising deadline, they had less than $3,000 in hand. That money will go to next year's show, she said.
"This year, going into it, we kind of predicted this, knowing the economy is the way it is," she said.
The city had dropped the celebration in 2003 and 2004 due to cuts in state aid to the city. Litt said she and others took up the banner in 2005 and kept the shows going through last year.
"It's going to be odd to have a Fourth of July without fireworks," Litt said.
Nationwide, fireworks shows are being canceled or scaled back, mostly in small and midsize cities, as municipalities' tax revenue dries up with the slowing economy and falling home prices.
Funding from corporate sponsorships also has fizzled.
The budget realities are forcing communities to decide, for example, whether they can pay for extra police and fire protection for a fireworks show - or perhaps pay an officer's salary for the rest of the year.
Some organizers worry about seeking money for a celebration as communities struggle to take care of life-or-death needs worsened by the recession.
In some cases, it's not just the fireworks shows getting the ax. Municipal and corporate sponsors, forced into frugality by the tough economy, have reduced or pulled funding for whole festivals encompassing music, food and other staples of summer.
Fireworks fans acknowledge the tough realities, but also say free fireworks shows aren't frivolous - rather, that they're a nearly sacred institution.
"The economic calamity that has hit the nation is something that we can understand," Dave Richmond, 41, of Parma, Ohio, wrote in an
e-mail after the city decided it couldn't justify a $25,000 fireworks show amid a tax revenue shortfall of $2.4 million and furloughs of city workers.
Some fireworks companies have reported that business is off about 10 percent from last year, said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, an industry group.
Shows are being canceled from sea to shining sea:
In Hialeah, Fla., near Miami, an annual event was canceled this year because sponsorship money dried up in an area that's been especially hard hit by plunging housing prices. Organizers were short $20,000 to $25,000 to pay for the $40,000 to $45,000 show. Other cities canceling shows include Mesa, Ariz.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Niceville, Fla.; and Garland, Texas.
Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt contributed to this report. He can be reached at (701) 241-5583 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org