Vail Valley fireworks shows have strong defenders
While Aspen, Breckenridge and Frisco have canceled their fireworks, Vail Valley shows will continue into the foreseeable future
EAGLE COUNTY — With the Fourth of July on Thursday, local towns have their fireworks shows at the ready. But how much longer will Independence Day include bombs bursting in air?
This year, the towns of Breckenridge, Frisco and Aspen canceled their fireworks shows. Last year’s drought played a large role in those decisions, but so did traffic and other factors.
But there were still thousands of people in Vail for last year’s Fourth of July activities, and the fireworks had been canceled weeks before the holiday.
Chris Romer, president of the Vail Valley Partnership, the region’s chamber of commerce, said fireworks, particularly in Vail, are just part of a holiday trip to the high country.
“People enjoy (fireworks),” Romer said. “But I don’t know that fireworks are the reason people go to a place.”
People travel more for an overall experience than a specific part, Romer said. Vail has its parade, patriotic concert and other events that draw people to town.
Even in Avon, where the Salute to the USA’s fireworks show is the centerpiece of the event, Romer said there are other attractions sure to draw visitors.
“I don’t think too many visitors base their plans on fireworks,” Romer said.
And, Romer added, the demise of Fourth of July fireworks may be coming.
“As we see years like last year, the risk is pretty high, and the cost is pretty expensive,” he said.
But a lot of people love fireworks displays and would be sad to see them disappear.
Longtime Vail resident Mark Gordon said fireworks there won’t go away “if I have anything to say about it.”
Gordon said Vail in the past hasn’t hesitated to cancel its fireworks shows if dangerous conditions exist.
“As long as we can do it safely,” it should continue, Gordon added.
Even without fireworks, Vail is a popular holiday getaway and deals with big crowds and traffic.
“That just means Vail’s the place to be,” he said.
Different story downvalley
The story is a little different in the western valley. There, the towns of Eagle and Gypsum for the past few years have shared the cost of the annual fireworks show, and alternate the venue each year.
Last year was supposed to be Gypsum’s turn, but the show was canceled due to the drought. Organizers decided that Gypsum would host this year’s show to make up for last year’s cancellation.
Michelle Friedman is a member of the Eagle Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Like Gordon, Friedman said she hopes the fireworks shows go on into the foreseeable future.
“It’s a tradition, and I don’t want it to go away,” Friedman said.
Gypsum Town Manager Jeremy Rietmann said the joint show isn’t going away any time soon.
“I think it’s a great American tradition,” Rietmann said.
Given the vagaries of local weather, Rietmann said “we’ll always make careful determinations about” fireworks shows.
This year, fire officials have given the go-ahead for the show. Crews will be on hand, and airport officials have been notified as to when the show will take place.
The problem, Rietmann said, is when some residents decide they can launch their own fireworks, a dicey proposition even in wet years.
Sharing the show was a “brilliant” move, Friedman said. Working together keeps the cost affordable for both towns, she added.
“People love it,” Friedman said. “If we can share it financially, then let’s — the towns are only 7 miles (apart); there’s no need for two shows.”
And the Fourth of July celebrates America’s independence, Rietmann said. That’s worth celebrating.
“And we believe in celebrating things that are worth celebrating,” he said.