Fireworks light up the sky over the United States Capitol
dome and the Washington Monument as the US celebrates its
235th Independence Day in Washington in this July 4, 2011
file photo. REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang/Files
As millions of Americans celebrate Independence Day on
Wednesday, there are some whose holiday won't be going off with
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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