What's the 4th of July without fireworks?

Wildfires, dry weather and tight budgets have put a damper on fireworks in some communities this Independence Day.

REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/Files
Fireworks light up the sky over the United States Capitol dome and the Washington Monument as the U.S. celebrates its Independence Day in Washington in this file photo. One of America's top fireworks firms said the industry, still suffering amid the nation's continued economic slump, is experiencing its toughest time since the Vietnam War.

As millions of Americans celebrate Independence Day on Wednesday, there are some whose holiday won't be going off with a bang.

One of America's top fireworks firms said the industry, still suffering due to the nation's economic woes, is experiencing its toughest times since the Vietnam War era when the country was divided over such flashy displays of patriotism.

"What we are seeing now in the fireworks industry is equivalent to what happened in the '70s," said Philip Butler, vice president of Fireworks by Grucci, based in New York.

"At that time, unfortunately, people were tending more to burn the flag than to wave it. Fireworks suffered until 1976 when we celebrated the bicentennial and then they came back considerably," he said.

About $217 million will be spent on an estimated 14,000 Fourth of July fireworks displays across America, a Grucci spokesman said. But 70 percent of those shows will be at private or corporate events in premier locations like the Hamptons, Malibu, Lake Tahoe and the Jersey Shore, according to Grucci.

Tight local budgets - as well as wildfire threats - have forced at least 100 communities from Tanglewood Park, North Carolina, to Half Moon Bay, California, to forego the traditional Fourth of July razzle dazzle.

Some localities that are on high fire alert due to heat and dry conditions have banned fireworks displays. Other fireworks shows were canceled amid lingering power outages from the Midwest to the mid-Atlantic region caused by fierce storms spawned by record heat.

In Malden, Massachusetts, there will be no fireworks for the first time in years after the Malden Airport Board decided the money could be better spent elsewhere.

"It was really becoming a burden on the community soliciting for fireworks when so many other good causes were also soliciting for their support," said airport manager Barb Crayne.

A $1 million hole in the Lynwood City Council's budget caused the California town to end its tradition of Fourth of July fireworks. Its Candy Cane Lane Parade and Winter Wonderland Christmas events have also been axed.

Sales in Texas

A rare spot of good news for fireworks retailers comes from Texas. Two-thirds of the 254 counties in Texas approved the sale of fireworks to the public after eliminating last year's ban put in place because of fire concerns amid a record drought.

Sales were allowed only in the week leading to Independence Day and the week before New Year's Eve. Fireworks companies say that is not enough to protect the livelihood of retailers.

"It would be kind of like asking Wal-Mart to pay all their expenses for six months, but, oh by the way, you can't open up any of your stores and you can't sell anything," said Luke Girdley, vice president of Alamo Fireworks, based in San Antonio.

For at least one city, fireworks may be a way to raise funds through high-priced tickets sales. In New York, $200 tickets are being sold to a cordoned off section of a public park along the Hudson River that promises stunning views of the Macy's fireworks show.

Grucci's Butler said this year's shows would be fewer and cost far less than in previous years. Still, each Grucci fireworks show requires eight technicians working up to four days for the setup alone.

"The average spend for fireworks shows now is around $15,500, which is a small budget and people tend to space out the fireworks which makes for a less interesting show," he said.

His company will provide the pyrotechnics for about 80 shows around America on Wednesday, down slightly from last year.

Butler, who has been in the fireworks business since he married Donna Grucci, now president of the fifth-generation company, says despite the economic challenges local governments should not scrimp on tradition.

"Shame on them. It's like taking on Mom and apple pie," he said. "They aren't saving much compared to their overall budget but it makes them look good. This is really the most important day of the year to have fireworks."

Nearly two dozen Colorado communities have canceled their Fourth of July fireworks displays as firefighters battle raging wildfires. Some Colorado towns like Estes Park will postpone fireworks celebrations until the danger clears.

Other communities have banned fireworks displays because of heat and dry conditions. Affected areas include the Tennessee city of Springfield, a dozen communities in Ohio including Kent, Richmond, Newark and Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, and the Indiana towns of Brownsburg, Hartford City, New Palestine, Beech Grove, Greenfield, Kokomo, Auburn and Delphi.

(Additional reporting by Tim Ghianni and Kim Palmer; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Will Dunham)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.