After years of struggling to raise enough money to bring Fourth of July fireworks to Paso Robles, the volunteer committee that’s headed the effort for the last several years announced this week that it's stepping down, a move that all but dooms a show this year.
“Unless a group steps forward, there will not be an organized Fourth of July celebration in 2015,” committee member and city planning commissioner Al Garcia said in a statement released this week.
The move follows a similar action taken by a fireworks group in Morro Bay that disbanded last month.
Paso Robles’ 4th of July committee has worked in years past to bring the patriotic pyrotechnics display to Barney Schwartz Park, a celebration on the city’s east side that organizers previously estimated attracted 15,000 spectators each year.
The city paid for police, traffic patrol and cleanup services when the show began in 2002 but had to pull its support during the recession.
That’s when volunteers, headed by former Mayor Duane Picanco, took over to make it a privately funded effort through donations.
Since then, the show — which has cost around $65,000 in years past — has struggled in that goal.
Fireworks were canceled in 2010 and 2013 because of lack of funds. In other years, donors have swept in and saved the show at the last minute.
Then, last year, the group took a new approach by buying smaller fireworks that didn’t go as high and pairing the display with the city’s more widely publicized anniversary celebration in Downtown City Park. Having it downtown cut the cost of the show in half because it also alleviated some costly issues with hosting the event at Barney Schwartz, Garcia said, such as trucking in portable toilets and lights and posting Highway 46 East signage.
This year, however, Garcia said downtown fireworks in the summer are a no-go after the city’s Fire Department indicated they were not a good fit for the area.
“The weather and dryness of July caused great concern,” he told The Tribune. “We were launching next to City Hall, and it is just too risky as we certainly didn't want to damage the library or City Hall.”
Even though Paso Robles’ fireworks group has disbanded so each member can focus on other causes, Garcia said its members have ideas to share with their successors “that could help focus their efforts, keep costs under control, and keep the celebration going.”