The annual drama surrounding Athens’ Independence Day fireworks show continued last week as commissioners debated whether to put them on downtown, like last year, or at Bishop Park, where the Star-Spangled Classic happened prior to 2008 budget cuts.
The Athens Downtown Development Authority threw together last year’s fireworks show at the last minute after Georgia Square Mall, which had hosted them for the prior two years, canceled its show. But the ADDA declined to do so again this year.
Downtown business owners are urging the commission to shoot off fireworks downtown again this year, but doing so would cost $16,500 more than at Bishop Park—$63,150 versus $46,650—because of increased security needs and insurance costs. The commission must also decide whether to save $5,000 by putting on the fireworks show on July 1 rather than July 4.
Based on commissioners’ comments at their agenda-setting meeting, it appears they’re leaning toward downtown and the Saturday before the Fourth. The show would have a greater economic impact there, with attendees more likely to shop and eat beforehand or afterward, and several commissioners also praised the family-friendly and diverse crowd last year. “For a lot of folks, these special events are really the only time they feel welcome and comfortable downtown,” said Commissioner Melissa Link.
But Eastside Commissioner Andy Herod, while not outright opposing downtown fireworks, said ACC should have community events in other parts of the county where taxpaying businesses could use a boost as well. “It’s an equity issue,” he said.
Going forward, Girtz and Commissioner Sharyn Dickerson said they’d like to see a template developed for putting on the fireworks show so that the same issues don’t keep coming up year after year. “We were kind of flying blind last year, we’re learning this year, and I think we’ll probably have it down pat next year,” Denson said.