by Sarah Curry
Director of Fiscal Policy Studies
This week I will take a break from politics and spend time reflecting on the celebrations of 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. Today 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 involve corporate sponsors.
So what goes into a fireworks show? An average 4th of July fireworks show usually lasts between 15 and 25 minutes and costs thousands, with the total figure depending on the size of the venue. Larger venues require larger fireworks, which make the shows more expensive.
In North Carolina, local governments are the main supplier of fireworks displays on the 4th of July. Here are some details from cities across the state and how much they spent on their fireworks last weekend.
Raleigh spent $32,500 in public funds on two different displays at the Raleigh Convention Center.
Greensboro spent $8,000 in public funds on the fireworks display that was part of the Fun Fourth Festival.
Asheville didn’t spend any public dollars on its fireworks display this year. Instead, the Asheville Downtown Association, a private 501(c)6 organization, provided the $15,000 that was spent at the Ingles Independence Day Celebration.
Wilmington‘s fireworks display is set off from a barge in the water. Use of the barge was an in-kind donation to the city, but the cost of the fireworks display was $25,000 paid for by the city taxpayers.
Onslow County spent $10,000 in public funds, mostly from the 3-percent occupancy tax on hotels.
White Water Rafting Center on the Mecklenburg/Gaston County border hosted two shows, one on Friday which cost $5,000 and another on Saturday which cost $10,000. They were both paid for by private funds.
The city of Charlotte was contacted multiple times to find out the cost of their fireworks display, but they have not responded.
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Updated July 8, 2015.
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