Frisco cancels Fourth of July fireworks display
The skies over Summit County will look a little less colorful this year as residents and visitors gather to celebrate Independence Day.
The town of Frisco announced on Monday that they will be cancelling the annual Fourth of July fireworks display over Dillon Reservoir in an attempt to both increase public safety and mitigate wildfire risks, and avoid headaches related to increased traffic as well as parking and crowd management concerns.
“Fireworks have been a staple of July Fourth celebrations in Frisco for decades,” said Mayor Gary Wilkinson in a statement on the decision. “After considerable discussion, council decided that it was time to start new traditions, which will celebrate our country’s independence while respecting the health and safety of our community and environment. It is our hope to see this day return to the simpler pleasures centered around enjoying time with friends and family and experiencing all that Frisco has to offer.”
The move comes just over two months after Breckenridge decided to nix their fireworks show, citing ever-growing concerns about wildfire safety on the Western Slope and in Summit County.
From a public safety and environmental perspective the move is intuitive, as the county hasn’t been immune to severe wildfire seasons over recent years. On July 5, 2017, the Peak 2 Fire ignited more than 80 acres between Frisco and Breckenridge, spurring widespread evacuations of almost 500 homes. In June last year, the Buffalo Mountain Fire ballooned to more than 90 acres forcing the evacuation nearly 1,400 homes in the Mesa Cortina and Wildernest areas.
But while fires are certainly a concern for the town, and mountain communities at large, Summit Fire & EMS chief Jeff Berino said wildfire dangers aren’t the biggest safety issue tied to Frisco’s fireworks show, which is held over the lake.
Instead, emergency and town officials are primarily concerned about potentially large-scale issues surrounding traffic, parking and crowds. Following Breckenridge’s decision to cancel their show Frisco was the only municipality in the county planning a fireworks display, raising questions about whether the town could support a significant increase in spectators without Breckenridge helping to shoulder the load.
“We needed to think long and hard what it would look like if we were the only one with fireworks,” said Frisco spokeswoman Vanessa Agee. “Based on our recent experiences at the end of January, we absolutely have the ability to clog roads to a point where it doesn’t seem doable.”
Agee pointed to the last weekend in January this year, when a number of community attractions — including Frisco’s Spontaneous Combustion Bonfire, the Ice Castles in Dillon and snow sculptures in Breckenridge — lead to dangerous traffic volumes that created major impediments for emergency workers trying to navigate their way to respond to calls.
“We don’t worry about it for fireworks,” said Berino. “They’re shot over water, and we’d never shoot the show if there was a danger of wildfire. But I understand the traffic problems, or the potential for them, and I endorse their decision.”
Regardless of the cancellation, Agee said the town is still dedicated to providing plenty of programming to help residents get into a patriotic spirit this Fourth of July. Festivities will still include the Team Summit Pancake Breakfast at the Old Community Center, the Kids Fishing Derby at Meadow Creek Park, the Fabulous Fourth of July Parade, two free concerts and more.
“We see this as a opportunity to give folks a wonderful day, where they don’t have to battle crowds; rush from one activity to another; or worry about whether their four year old is going to melt down at 9:30 p.m. just as the fireworks are starting,” said Agee. “In Frisco, this day will be about pancake breakfasts, catching fish at the Fishing Derby, listening to great live music, watching an authentic hometown parade or just chilling and eating a hot dog at a backyard BBQ.”
Of note, the cancelled fireworks display will also free up some funds in the town’s budget — about $50,000 that would typically be spent on fireworks, marketing and additional traffic, crowd and public safety strategies — that the town plans to reinvest in the celebration by securing more a prominent musical act for the marina concert and adding more interactive activities to Main Street.
“There is something magical about having fireworks over the mountains or the reservoir,” said Agee. “I get people will be disappointed. But change is inevitable, and I’d rather we proactively change than have something we regret like a tragedy or a fire. I think it takes a lot of courage to do what the Frisco Town Council did, and I’m proud to have seen a continuation of their thoughtful leadership.”
For more information on what Frisco has planned for Independence Day, visit Frisco4th.com.
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