Each year around this time, I prepare for the coming of Independence Day by researching what the Fourth of July is all about: fireworks.
With LA being a patchwork of communities, there are plenty of Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks shows to choose from. I was sad to find though, that a few of my favorite smoke and flame displays had been cancelled for 2011, two of them indefinitely.
Over in Lawndale, the city decided to cancel their show “Due to extensive construction and renovations at Lawndale high school locations”. I can understand that…almost.
If the show was important, you would think that the folks managing the construction project would have told the folks running the fireworks show “Hey, our construction will be going on during July 4. Find another place to have your event.”
Or maybe the Lawndale fireworks committee could have thought ahead and asked the high school construction folks, “Dude, how long is this construction going to last!? We need a spot to put on our show.”
Either way, the city gets a pass on footing the bill for the event. Hopefully they’ll be back for ID4 2012.
The two other cancellations I found were blamed on the same reason that everyone is harping when things get cancelled of reduced these days: tough economic times.
In the case of Marina Del Rey, the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbor announced the non-event in a letter simply titled “Budget Issues Force Cancellation of Marina Del Rey Fourth of July Fireworks”.
Beaches and Harbors Director, Santos H. Kreimann, is quoted in the letter saying “Cancelling this year’s Fourth of July fireworks display was a difficult decision to make because it is a popular event for the residents of Marina del Rey and Los Angeles County. However, spending thousands of dollars on a fireworks show while community programs and services are being cut would not be fiscally responsible during these tough economic times.”
The City of Torrance issued a similar statement saying, “In light of … economic challenges, the difficult decision was made to discontinue hosting Torrance’s Old Fashion Fourth of July Celebration at Charles H. Wilson Park”.
Both of these situations lead me to ponder: are displays of patriotism a necessity or a luxury? I’m torn.
On the one hand, I agree, someone has to foot the bill for these situations. In the case of free shows put on by municipalities, the bill is almost always going to fall on the city. Local businesses may chip in and support but the city is likely left holding a large portion of the bill. Along with footing the cost of explosives, the cities also have to manage traffic, safety, and security issues with a larger police and safety presence, most likely at higher rates due to holiday pay schedules. Instead of budgeting for something that will be going up in smoke, I can completely understand them wanting to spend money on something that their citizens may need more desperately or for longer than one night.
On the other hand, when and where else can we get to see such awesome fireworks displays!? Fireworks — at least the fun ones! — are illegal in LA County. Its so much safer for responsible parties to put on fireworks shows. Outside of the safe display of explosives, there are few other occurrences during the year — Labor Day!? — when US citizens come together as a community to recognize our country. Yeah, the kids might not understand it for a few years, but at least they are being indoctrinated into the tradition of watching smoke, sparkles, and flames on a warm summer night. Without these displays, that patriotic rite of passage might not happen.
For this Fourth of July and the ones to come, I’m hoping for two things.
First, I hope the cities and governments that have chosen to cut out their celebrations can find the funds for future events. Let’s get out of these “tough economic times” and get back to blowing stuff up in celebration.
And second, to the cities that are having their parades, firework shows, and festivals; thank you for helping Angelenos celebrate Indepence Day. I hope you can keep it up.