Tampa’s major Jane Castor has made a bold promise to the people she represents about this year’s 4th of July firework display – this year, they’re actually going to go with a bang. She feels comfortable saying that, because she’s going to be the person paying for them.
By her own admission, the displays that have taken place for the past two consecutive years have been something of a disappointment. Last year’s ‘celebration’ lasted a miserable eight minutes, leaving spectators wondering why they’d bothered to leave the house to see them. An issue with budgeting was blamed for the limp display. ‘Friends of the Riverwalk,’ who organized the display, responded to the scathingly negative reviews they received by blaming a funding shortfall, with only $18,000 being raised to cover the whole evening.
The attempt to do the show on the cheap left a particularly sour taste in the mouth of residents who’d also made the journey to see the 4th July fireworks the previous year, when an issue with the computer running the display resulted in the show grinding to a crashing halt halfway through. Ultimately, the show wounded up having to be aborted after less than half the advertised running time.
To make up for the disappointment, Mayor Castor promises that the celebrations this year will be a night to remember, with a lavish spend of $150,000 to ensure a spectacular show, and make residents happy that they didn’t just stay at home and let off fireworks in their back yards. She further promised that all of the funds required to stage the show would come from private donations and sponsors, and not from city funds or political campaign accounts.
It will be Castor’s first independence day as mayor, having been elected on April 23rd. In a lighthearted video posted on her official Facebook account, she spoke of ‘wanting to start her time as mayor with a bang,’ and that the planned event will go by the name of ‘Boom by the Bay.’ If the event is successful, she hopes it will start a tradition of the city organizing the annual fireworks display and taking ownership of it instead of relying on external contractors.
The scale of the event sounds large. Almost three miles of Hillsborough River, running between Armature Works and Sparkman Wharf, will be given over to city-sponsored fireworks events, with four separate’ focus points’ from which fireworks will be launched, and around which ground can gather. While a fireworks specialist will be brought in to handle the physical launch of the explosives, it’s hoped that one can be found locally.
Much as last year’s July 4th fireworks were disappointing for Tampa, it was an even worse night for our neighbors in St. Petersburg, who didn’t get to see any fireworks at all. Crowds of revelers had gathered well in advance of the advertised 9 pm commencement of the display, only for nothing to happen. Half an hour after the display was scheduled to begin, the crowd was told to go home, as nothing was going to happen, with the appointed company Creative Pyrotechnics either unwilling or unable to provide the show they’d promised.
Creative Pyrotechnics, for their part, claim that localized weather problems made it impossible to perform the show, even though no such adverse weather was noted on the other side of the Bay. The company was denied their agreed $25,000 payment, and the matter is now in court as St. Peterburg attempts to reclaim the approximately $60,000 it spent on security, police, and fire services for the evening to ensure the safety of the crowds.
This year, St. Petersburg has again decided to go with the best bidder to perform their show, although they’ve gone to great lengths to explain that any failure to deliver the advertised services will not be tolerated. The winning bidders, J&M Display, are presumably nervously looking forward to their time in the spotlight, and have already made a commitment to have everything set up and ready to go by noon a day in advance.
While we’re sure that J&M will do St. Petersburg proud, we feel happier with the plan presented by Mayor Castor. Having our 4th of July celebrations organized, planned, and paid for on a ‘for Tampa by Tampa’ basis means that we should have a certainty of success instead of a gamble that things won’t turn out as they have done for the past two years. The words’ gamble’ and ‘fireworks’ are a bad combination, and should only be seen together in the context of the popular ‘Fireworks Frenzy’ online slot game on casinos in the UK such as Lion Wins. Ironically, those who turned out last year would have seen more fireworks if they’d stayed at home and played the casino game instead of heading outside to be let down, and the only ‘frenzy’ that evening was the anger of those people as they realized they weren’t going to get what they’d come out to see. With a bit of luck, Major Castor’s plan is going to hit the jackpot.
The fireworks are, of course, only one aspect of the celebrations that Tampa is planning for July 4th. We can already confirm that the annual Tampa Red White & Blue Festival will be happening again at 1120 E Kennedy Blvd, and this year is advertising that it’s free for the whole family, with even pets promised entertainment! The best of American art, music, and food are available, with prizes on offer for the most patriotically dressed adult, child, and dog. Further prize giveaways are also on the agenda, as is an apple pie contest. Turn up in your best patriotic dress, with your best apple pie in hand and your best patriotic costume on your dog to stand the best chance of walking away as a winner! With that celebration due to end at 8 pm, there should even be time to move on from there to catch the firework display.
There will be further Independence Day celebrations happening within the city, and we’ll be releasing more details of the ways you can celebrate Independence Day in Tampa Bay as they become available in the coming days and weeks.