Flight delays hamper July 4 travel
Night skies in some US cities will remain gloomy this Independence Day, with supply chain and personnel shortages, drought and concerns about wildfires leading to the cancellation of several fireworks displays in across the country.
For some, this will be the third year in a row that their shows have been cancelled.
“The first two years were pandemic related and this year it’s supply chain related,” said Adam Waltz, spokesman for the city of Phoenix, where the three main fireworks have been canceled. According to Mr. Waltz, the salesman who usually supplies the city with its fireworks had not been able to promise the product.
“It’s just discouraging,” he added.
Other cities have canceled their fireworks due to concerns about wildfires. Across the West in particular, drought and hot, dry, windy weather this summer have already helped create the conditions for rapid fires. As of Friday, there were 55 large wildfires burning across 11 states, including the Rices Fire in Nevada County, California, which had grown to more than 900 acres since its start on Tuesday, according to the National Interservice Center for Firefighters.
In Flagstaff, Ariz., about 150 miles north of Phoenix, city officials decided they’d rather plan a laser light show than stage fireworks they might have to cancel at the last minute, if weather conditions prevent the show from being carried out safely.
“We are facing dangerous conditions,” said Sarah Langley, city spokeswoman. She said the city has yet to make a decision on whether it will continue to replace fireworks with laser light shows in future years.
In North Lake Tahoe, California, city officials said they decided to replace their annual 4th of July fireworks with drones, also due to fire hazards, as well as other environmental hazards. (A variety of chemicals that can be pollutants are needed to make fireworks big, loud, and colorful.)
In Claremont, this is the third year in a row that the show has been canceled, said Melissa Vollaro, a city spokeswoman. She said it takes about 650,000 gallons of water to wet the area where the fireworks are launched, which was impossible with current water restrictions. Instead, she said, the city was planning a concert in the park.
Other cities have canceled their shows due to a lack of staff.
Cal Expo in Sacramento said it needed to focus its manpower and resources on the upcoming State Fair and Food Festival, and therefore was unable to stage its Independence Day fireworks. In Ocean City, Maryland, the the authorities said two fireworks could not take place due to “labour shortages”. Minneapolis officials also said they had to cancel the posting due to the construction of a local park, as well as staffing issues.
In many other parts of the country, including New York, Independence Day celebrations are proceeding as planned. For some, it’s the first time they’ve displayed fireworks since before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone is ready to celebrate their independence from this virus,” said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Ms Heckman said that while some shows were canceled, she still expected the number of professional fireworks displays across the country to exceed those of 2020 and 2021.
“Demand is at 110% of pre-pandemic levels,” Ms. Heckman said, adding that she expected nearly 17,000 shows across the country in the days surrounding Independence Day. (Before the coronavirus pandemic, she said, there were about 16,000 shows during that time nationwide.)
Some residents of towns where shows have been canceled are planning to light their own fireworks. Certain types of consumer fireworks are legal in 49 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, though individual counties and cities may enforce bans, Ms. Heckman said. Consumer fireworks are prohibited in Massachusetts.
Dennis Revell, spokesman for TNT Fireworks, the nation’s largest consumer fireworks distributor, said that in 2020, when the vast majority of public events were canceled, TNT sales increased significantly, both in terms of gross sales and the number of people who buy their products. “We kept a lot of that in 2021,” Revell said. But, he added, “it’s far too early to predict what 2022 will look like.”
However, some smaller retailers have also been hit with supply chain issues.
Eyvonne Hall, owner of Discount Fireworks in Brainerd, Minn., about 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis, said she has been waiting more than a month for some orders, which previously took about a week to arrive.
She said she called 12 different suppliers looking for a particularly popular fireworks display: Pure Fantasy. “They’re beautiful and colorful, and the fountain goes up in a way that people love it,” Ms Hall said. “It’s been slow this year,” she added. “I just hope that in the next few days it will pick up.”
In Queen Creek, about 40 miles southeast of Phoenix, where public fireworks have been canceled, another vendor said his business has resumed, thanks in part to the cancellations.
“They’re really disappointed, and it’s a shame, but they’re really excited to try these new fountains at home,” Christian Valles, who runs the fireworks stand, said of his customers. She added, “They’ll have a good show.”
Michael Lusiak, a fireworks enthusiast from Green Bay, Wis., about 115 miles north of Milwaukee, said since 2020 he’s been trying to step up his private show, hoping to dazzle viewers. Independence Day revelers who may not have had somewhere else to do.
The best moment, said Mr. Lusiak, a farmhand who hosts the shows in his employer’s cornfield, is the grand finale. “I can feel the shockwaves in my chest, and I know I’m making a statement that people miles away are going to see or hear,” he said.
“All the applause and honking,” he added, “is one of the best feelings in the world.”
June 30, 2022
An earlier version of this article misrepresented the location of the town of Queen Creek, Arizona. It is southeast of Phoenix, not southwest.