Loudon City Council mulled canceling the Fourth of July fireworks display before ultimately agreeing to increase funding.
Mark Harrell, Loudon Parks and Recreation Department director, presented council during a Monday workshop with information on the Fourth of July and Riverfest firework displays. For the first time, Harrell put out a request for bids for the shows. Pyro Shows from Texas was the lone bidder.
“A Fourth of July show, about a 10-minute show, is around $25,000,” Harrell said. “We’re paying for that date. That’s an increase of almost triple of what we’ve paid in the past for Fourth of July. … At the municipal park, we can shoot larger and much more higher shells than we can shoot at Legion Park, the reason being that Legion Park is close to the manufacturing plants across the river and there’s some security issues with being able to reach those plants with a dud or a firework. If we do the show downtown, it’s $10,000 for Riverfest, and the shells are a little bit smaller, so they don’t go as high.”
Harrell previously discussed with Councilman Tim Brewster the possibility of not having the Fourth of July show and putting all funds toward Riverfest.
Brewster said several neighboring communities host firework displays on July 4, so he’d like to place emphasis on Riverfest.
“I think the previous council had a desire to add the July Fourth,” Jeff Harris, Loudon mayor, said. “That’s why it got added. I think Johnny (James, councilman) can remember that. It came to us as a request from citizens to have some something on the Fourth. … I guess for years we didn’t have anything on the Fourth.”
Harrell agreed that many neighboring communities host displays.
“I think that’s something you guys are going to have to respond to if the neighbors ask, especially with the COVID thing,” Harrell said. “People are wanting to get outdoors now. They’re looking for every opportunity. We saw that with the Christmas in the Park festival. … I’m excited to do Riverfest and add fireworks to it. That’s a decision you guys need to make.”
Pyro Shows must know by the end of January, with a written contract, if Loudon will host a display July 4. Harrell said Riverfest can wait.
Brewster said hopes are for both to draw people to Loudon, which is difficult July 4 with surrounding competition. For Riverfest, there is none.
“I think we have people here that would want a Fourth of July probably,” Tim Dixon, councilman, said. “They don’t go to Lenoir City. They don’t go to Sweetwater, Kingston. They want to stay at home and have those things. I think that’s what happened with what he’s talking about with the previous council. We didn’t have nothing for years, and then once they started having it, it just kept building and building. It’s very successful last I remember.”
Harrell said a lot of boat traffic comes through for July 4, but he has received complaints in the past from boaters who were disappointed in only seeing a 10-minute show after coming from neighboring cities.
The fee for adding additional minutes to the Riverfest show would be about $1,000 a minute, Harrell said. Costs for both shows are split between the city and Loudon Utilities Board.
The total cost for both shows had been $35,000. Brewster requested Harrell add another $5,000 onto the Riverfest show to increase the total funding to $40,000.