Fourth of July Fireworks finished

cpride@losbanosenterprise.comAugust 1, 2014 

Last month may have marked the final time a fireworks show is held in Los Banos.

The Chamber of Commerce has voted to discontinue its annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show due to rising costs.

“The chamber is no longer going to have a fireworks show. We put on a free community fireworks show for 17 years, and when we started it was half the cost it is now,” said Geneva Brett, chamber president. “(Now) we’re chasing $20,000 a year to put on a fireworks show.”

She said fireworks were not the only show-related expense, citing costs for portable toilets, security and facilities rental fees.

The chamber’s fireworks booth was not generating enough money, Brett said, to cover costs. The 340-plus chamber members spend 2,000 hours each year staffing the fireworks booth, Brett said. The chamber also has asked other nonprofits selling fireworks and the public to chip in. But not enough donations came in to sustain the show.

Brett said the board of directors voted July 23 to end the fireworks show.

“The vast majority voted in favor of not having an Independence Day celebration,” Brett said. “It was not close.”

The chamber’s Fourth celebration started in 1997 at the Los Banos Fairgrounds. It was moved to Pacheco High’s Veterans Memorial Stadium in 2011. Games, music and various competitions have added to the revelry.

But Brett said attendance has waned .

“A lot of people leave town,” she said. “It’s hot and if it’s on a Friday, it’s the beginning of a three-day weekend and people go to the coast or the Bay Area where it’s cooler.”

“Safe and Sane” fireworks were legalized in Los Banos in 2005. City policy permitted one nonprofit per 5,000 residents to sell fireworks to benefit their group. Each nonprofit, except the Los Banos Chamber of Commerce, has to enter a lottery annually to sell fireworks. Approval for the chamber booth is contingent upon proceeds going toward the fireworks show. Brett said the chamber wants to vie for a booth.

No other nonprofit organizations have been contacted about taking over the fireworks show, Brett said.

City Manager Steve Carrigan said he is looking at the possibility of the city sponsoring the fireworks show.

“I heard from a lot of people, the chamber, City Council, my neighbors. ... Everybody has an opinion on fireworks,” Carrigan said.

He said he plans to present options to the City Council at its Sept. 17 meeting.

Brett said she hopes Fourth of July fireworks will continue. “As I left the show this year, I was proud as far as what we have done,” Brett said. “I love the fireworks show. I sure hope somebody steps up to do it.”

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