Fireworks are as much of a Fourth of July necessity as the American flag and hot dogs on the grill. But some communities may be left with darker skies this weekend due to budget cuts.
That’s because, as America climbs out of a deep economic recession, some local governments have tightened spending — squeezing out public events like fireworks displays.
Michigan City, Ind., is one of dozens of small towns forced to halt the holiday celebration in the past. Mayor Ron Meer explained to ABC57, it was a matter of priorities, including “a Vietnam veterans memorial on the lakefront that needs refurbishing and I have [a] Michigan City lighthouse that needs structural repair and a paint job.”
It’s true, light shows come at no small price. Fireworks shows start at as much as $10,000 for smaller towns. And in some cases fireworks can cost around $1,000 a minute, according to Pam Lemmerman, vice president of the River District Alliance in Fort Meyers, Florida.
But the economic boost towns get from patrons, supporters say, is worth the cost. Julie Heckman, the executive director for the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) argues with fireworks shows leads to more visitors, which leads to more money. In fact, the APA finds that revenue made from display fireworks at commercial shows has steadily increased from $141 million in 1998 to $328 million in 2012, according to USA Today.
Kaboom Town in Addison, Texas racks up $2.5 million in restaurant revenue while Columbus, Ohio’s Red White & Boom adds an estimated $11 million to the city’s economy. Delgrosso’s Amusement Park in the small town of Tipton, Pennsylvania sees more than 20,000 people for its annual fireworks show while an additional 30,000 onlookers surround the area outside. Typically, the park brings in around 5,000 patrons on a regular day.
But instead of fighting the cuts, more communities have sparked ideas to brighten up the holiday with alternative methods to pay for the Independence Day staple, the National Journal reports. So instead of losing out on an important community event next year, here’s a few ways to keep around the American classic:
Seek outside sponsorship:
Over the past few years corporate sponsorship and private donation have become a main source of restoring brighter skies for a proper Fourth of July celebration. Elyria, Ohio eliminated fireworks in 2008, but the city provided help this year by adding a PayPal link to its website and adding a message in utility bills about how to donate. With the help of corporate and private contributions, city officials were able to raise $48,000 for the show, according to USA Today.
Other instances of corporations coming to the aid of the pyrotechnics: Pizza Hut sponsored a show for families at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam military base near Honolulu this year while several corporations including Microsoft and Amazon saved the annual display in Seattle last year.
Fundraise through nonprofits or local events:
Aside from seeking funding from private companies, communities can fundraise through simple measures like donation jars or charging parking fees. Community organizers or groups can also pool efforts to collect through local businesses, outside of storefronts or at local schools.
Partner with nearby towns:
Smaller towns can band together to form a larger event to save on spending and expand funding possibilities. Outside Chicago several towns in the northwest suburbs created the Northwest Fourth-Fest. Elgin, a participating town, reduced spending from $65,000 to $22,000 in 2012 by joining the new collaborative festival.
Enter a national contest:
National contests have also served as a means to obtain funding to put on the holiday blitz. Destination America’s Red, White & You contest selects two grand prize winning towns and three People’s Choice winners to receive $4,000 to go towards a show. Liberty Mutual launched a similar campaign in 2010 called Bring Back the 4th, awarding 10 communities throughout the country.
“I really do hope that communities that are cash-strapped and struggling think creatively to bring these shows back to their community,” Heckman said. “What other holiday does the community really come together, regardless of religion and regardless of political beliefs? Everybody wants to celebrate the Fourth of July. If the skies are dark, it has a huge impact on the community.”
MORE: It Takes a Village: Crowdfunding Neighborhood Improvement