Fireworks displays are returning to more cities this week, thanks to donations from companies and individuals who have worked to bring a traditional Fourth of July back to their communities.
"There's been a trend in recent years: three or four years ago, corporate and private donors started stepping in to save these shows rather than relying on the city budget," said American Pyrotechnics Association Executive Director Julie Heckman.
Skies were dark in Cincinnati last year, but this July celebrations will be bigger than usual, said Lou Sand, event coordinator for Cincinnati Parks-Waterfront.
Despite a tight budget, the city will put on an all-day event, "Welcome Home: A Salute to Service," which will include a formal ceremony, festival and fireworks display.
"All of the city's departments have been asked to make cuts, so we're able to do an event like this only because we've worked extra hard on soliciting sponsorship," Sand said.
Other cities celebrating again this year:
• Elyria, Ohio: There haven't been fireworks in Elyria, Ohio, since 2008. Mayor Holly Brinda said many residents expressed interest in bringing back the show. Although the city could not provide direct funding, she said it could provide support in other ways, including setting up a PayPal link on the city's website and printing notices on utility bills telling residents how to donate. Through corporations and individual support, Elyria raised $48,000 for this year's display. "It's not a core city service, but it's a quality-of-life service," Brinda said. "It's one opportunity to bring our community together."
• Springfield, Mo.: Since the city canceled its annual Fourth of July celebration, "Firefall," in 2009, fundraising has fallen to Springfield's corporations and private sponsors. This year, Urban Districts Alliance hosted "Fireworks at the Field" on June 28. Cox Health was title sponsor of the event, a collaboration between various city organizations. "The city is supportive of the event, but it hasn't done much for it financially," said Rusty Whorley, the executive director of the Urban Districts Alliance. "The investment from the city hasn't been nearly as high as it was for Firefall."
• San Jose, Calif.: Residents will see fireworks downtown on Friday for the first time since 2008. Event organizer Marianne Salas said her husband and president of the San Jose Rotary Club, Carl Salas, wanted to bring the event back "because he's always loved fireworks." She said the initiative received immediate support from city and county leaders.
• Paso Robles, Calif.: Volunteers could not raise enough money to hold a Fourth of July event last year, but after cutting the costs almost in half, the celebration will return this year, coinciding with the city's 125th anniversary. Event chairman Al Garcia said the team started earlier this year and was able to secure volunteers and donors to support the celebration. "Of course, the economy is a little bit better than it was, so people are feeling more confident." He said the downsizing has also helped "reimagine" the event. "It's essentially going to be an all-day event that is focused on families and enjoying the day," he said. "And remembering why we celebrate Fourth of July."
• New Rochelle, N.Y.: Two years ago, private donors stepped in to save the fireworks display that was threatened by a budget squeeze. Parks and Recreation Commissioner Bill Zimmermann said this year, there's more money in the city's budget being allocated to the event. "We're not in the same position that we were in then," Zimmermann said. "The economic situation has improved a bit." He said that council members felt that if the city had money to spend, then at least some of it should go to New Rochelle's annual waterfront "Spark the Sound" event.
Even the military is getting some sponsorship help with fireworks.
Budget cuts meant that fireworks were canceled last year at the Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam military base adjacent to Honolulu, but the traditional show will be back this year thanks to the sponsorship of Pizza Hut.
Doug Terfehr, the director of corporate and social responsibility at Pizza Hut, said Pizza Hut reached out to the base when it heard the fireworks display was being canceled last year, but there's wasn't enough time to plan and execute the show. "The military families at Pearl Harbor deserve a world-class fireworks display on Independence Day and we can't wait to celebrate alongside them," Terfehr said.
Putting on a fireworks display isn't cheap — a show costs about $1,000 a minute, said Pam Lemmerman, vice president of the River District Alliance in Fort Meyers, Fla. However, cities may still gain economic benefits.
A study by the APA shows local businesses such as restaurants and hotels can bring in millions due to the influx of residents and visitors during the holiday.
The APA's findings showed that revenue from display fireworks — those used in commercial shows — has steadily increased from $141 million in 1998 to $328 million in 2012.
"This is an industry that actually thrives in a tough economy," Heckman said.