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This week I will take a week off from politics and spend time celebrating our country’s independence day.  Former President John Adams wrote about his Independence Day visions nearly 240 years ago,

It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.

This is exactly what our country has done since the signing of the Declaration.  In today’s culture we celebrate with parades, picnics, speeches, music, cookouts, public readings of the Declaration of Independence, and fireworks. 

One of the most memorable and exciting activities on Independence Day is the fireworks show.  According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, there are more than 14,000 fireworks displays each 4th of July in the United States.  Before the recession, in 2007, revenues for the U.S. fireworks industry reached an all-time high of $930 million.  That is not hard to believe when firework shows can cost anywhere from $5,000 for a standard small town display to several million dollars for multi-day patriotic shows that sometimes even require corporate sponsors.


2012 Fireworks Budget



Chapel Hill










So what goes into a fireworks show?  An average 4th of July fireworks show usually lasts between 15 and 25 minutes, but will cost thousands depending on the size of the venue.  The larger venues require larger fireworks, which make the show more expensive.  For example, at a country club that draws a crowd of 300 to 400, the diameter of shells used in the show can be smaller, and they don’t need to be shot as high in the air.  This gives the audience a show with a similar look to one in a large city, but at a fraction of the cost. 

The cost is what has caused fireworks displays to be a topic in the news over the last few months.  Camp Lejeune Marine Corps Base and the Army’s Fort Bragg have both had their Independence Day fireworks celebrations cancelled due to military budget cuts.  Last year’s Independence Day at Camp Lejeune cost about $100,000, including $25,000 for the fireworks.  Fort Bragg’s 4th of July celebration cost $120,000 including fireworks.  North Carolina’s cities all have different methods to fund and produce fireworks shows, and all have had to change tradition due to budget cuts over the last few years.


The 22-minute show costs $30,000; the city pays $10,000 and the Battleship Commission pays $5,000.  Sponsors historically pay for the other $15,000, although this year the city is having difficulty finding sponsorships to fill the gap. 


Its annual fireworks show is held at Tanglewood Park, last year funded by $15,000 in sponsors and $8,250 of admission fees.  The remaining funding was subsidized by county government to fill the gap.  This year the fireworks show has been cancelled in the midst of a budget shortfall. 


In previous years people gathered at the State Fairgrounds for the fireworks show.  Last year the city moved the show to downtown and reduced the fireworks budget.  This year the city is spending $25,000 less than what it used to spend at the State Fairgrounds, but is using sponsors to fill the void with $50,000 from three corporate sponsors for this year’s two shows.

So wherever you are this 4th of July holiday — whether it is New York City’s fireworks display, the largest in the country, or your small town’s fireworks show — enjoy!  Remember why this holiday is important, and take a minute to celebrate the way our founding fathers wanted over 200 years ago.

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