The night skies of some American cities will remain dark this Independence Day as supply chain and staff shortages, drought and concerns about wildfires lead to the cancellation of several fireworks shows across the country.
For some, it will be the third year in a row that their shows have been cancelled.
“The first two years were pandemic related and this year has to do with supply chain,” said Adam Waltz, a spokesman for the city of Phoenix, where the three main fireworks displays were canceled. According to Mr. Waltz, the seller, who normally supplies the city with fireworks, was unable to promise the product.
“It’s just discouraging,” he added.
Other cities have canceled their fireworks displays over wildfire concerns. In the West in particular, drought and hot, dry, and windy weather this summer have already helped create the conditions for fast-moving blazes. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 55 major wildfires were burning in 11 states on Friday, including the Rice Fire in California’s Nevada County, which had grown to more than 900 acres since it started Tuesday.
In Flagstaff, Arizona, about 150 miles north of Phoenix, city officials decided they’d rather schedule a laser light show than organize fireworks, which they might have to cancel at the last minute if weather conditions meant they couldn’t safely stage the show could.
“We are facing dangerous conditions,” said Sarah Langley, a city spokeswoman. She said the city has yet to make a decision on whether it will continue to replace fireworks with laser light shows in the coming years.
In North Lake Tahoe, California, city officials said they decided to replace their annual Fourth of July fireworks show with drones, in part because of the risk of fire as well as other environmental risks. (A variety of polluting chemicals are needed to make fireworks extravaganzas big, loud, and colorful.)
Shows at Don Pedro Lake, about 50 miles east of Modesto, California, and Claremont, California, about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, were also canceled due to the state’s crippling drought.
In Claremont, this is the third straight year that the show has been canceled, said Melissa Vollaro, a city spokeswoman. She said about 650,000 gallons of water would be needed to wet the area where the fireworks will be set off, which is impossible under current water restrictions. Instead, the city is planning a concert in the park.
Other cities have canceled their shows due to staff shortages.
Cal Expo in Sacramento said it needed to focus its staff and resources on the upcoming state fair and food festival and therefore could not host its Independence Day fireworks. In Ocean City, Maryland, authorities said two fireworks shows could not go ahead due to “labor shortages.” Officials in Minneapolis also said they had to cancel the exhibit due to construction at a local park as well as staffing issues.
In many other parts of the country, including New York City, Independence Day celebrations are going ahead as planned. For some, it’s the first time they’ve shown fireworks since before the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone is ready to celebrate their independence from this virus,” said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association.
Ms Heckman said that although some shows have been cancelled, she still expects the number of professional fireworks shows across the country to exceed those of 2020 and 2021.
“Demand is at 110 percent of pre-pandemic levels,” Ms. Heckman said, adding that she expects nearly 17,000 shows nationwide in the days leading up to Independence Day. (Before the coronavirus pandemic, she said, there were about 16,000 shows nationwide during that time.)
Some residents in cities with canceled shows are planning to set off their own fireworks. Some types of consumer fireworks are legal in 49 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, although individual counties and cities can enforce bans, Ms. Heckman said. Consumer fireworks are prohibited in Massachusetts.
Dennis Revell, a spokesman for TNT Fireworks, the largest distributor of consumer fireworks in the country, said that TNT’s sales in 2020, when the vast majority of public events were cancelled, fell both in terms of gross sales and in terms of sales has increased significantly in the number of people who buy their products. “We kept a lot of that in 2021,” said Revell. But he added: “It’s far too early to predict what 2022 will be like.”
However, some smaller retailers have also been hit by supply chain issues.
Eyvonne Hall, the owner of Discount Fireworks in Brainerd, Minnesota, about 130 miles northwest of Minneapolis, said she waited more than a month for some orders that previously took about a week to arrive.
She said she called 12 different suppliers looking for a particularly popular fireworks display: Pure Fantasy. “They’re pretty and colorful and the fountain goes up a lot and people love that,” said Ms. Hall. “It’s been slow this year,” she added. “I’m just hoping that maybe over the next few days things will get better.”
In Queen Creek, about 40 miles southeast of Phoenix, where public fireworks have been canceled, another vendor said her business has recovered in part thanks to the cancellations.
“They’re really disappointed and that’s a shame, but they’re really looking forward to trying these new fountains at home,” said Christian Valles, who runs the fireworks stand, of her customers. She added, “You’re going to get a good show.”
Michael Lusiak, a fireworks enthusiast from Green Bay, Wisconsin, about 115 miles north of Milwaukee, said he’s been trying to step up his private show since 2020, hoping to wow Independence Day revelers who might not have had a seat otherwise go.
The best moment, said Mr. Lusiak, a farmhand who hosts the shows in his employer’s cornfield, is the grand finale. “I can feel the shock waves in my chest and I know I’m making a statement that people will see or hear from miles away,” he said.
“All the cheers and honking,” he added, “it’s one of the most beautiful feelings in the world.”
June 30, 2022
A previous version of this article misrepresented the location of the city of Queen Creek, Arizona. It’s southeast of Phoenix, not southwest.