Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly is not telling either Flagler Beach or Palm Coast what to do on July 4. His role is strictly law enforcement. But within that role, he is cautioning both cities about simultaneous July 4 fireworks celebrations. Some members of the Palm Coast City Council are pushing to have July 4 fireworks in the city on that day, regardless of what Flagler Beach does, breaking an 11-year tradition.
“It will certainly strain our resources,” Staly said in an interview. “I have a contract with the city of Palm Coast, so clearly they have to be the priority for my resources.” (Palm Coast contracts with the sheriff for its law enforcement services.)
“Historically the city of Palm Coast has lent Flagler Beach traffic signs, cones, and everything, so if they have their own on the same night, then that’s an additional issue to contend with. And historically we’ve also provided deputies in our traffic unit to Palm Coast. Something is going to have to give, because who knows if I can even have enough deputies to want to work overtime to handle both. It’s a holiday for them and their families too.”
Since 2010, when Palm Coast began to have its own fireworks show under the auspices of Flagler Broadcasting, the two cities have had a working arrangement: Flagler Beach would hold its fireworks show on July 4, Palm Coast would hold its show on July 3. (In 2010 it was the reverse.) When the Palm Coast show was conceived in 2010, in the words of Flagler Broadcasting President (then-vice president) David Ayres, it was as a complement to Flagler Beach, not as competition. He still sees it the same way.
Flagler Beach city officials also see it the same way–and would not want it any other way. But last week at a Palm Coast City Council meeting, three council members–Eddie Branquinho, Ed Danko and Victor Barbosa–said they’d favor holding Independence Day fireworks on July 4. (See: “‘You Had Me at 8-Inch Shells’: Palm Coast Would Shift Fireworks to Airport, But on July 4, Clashing With Flagler Beach.”)
That’s not what the Palm Coast city administration is recommending: it has the same concerns as the sheriff. But the scheduling issue arose during a proposal by the administration to move the Palm Coast fireworks from Central Park in Town Center to the nearby grounds of the Flagler County airport. The administration would like to do so for safety, for better traffic flow, to accommodate larger audiences, and to make possible larger-caliber fireworks.
All five city council members are supportive. But now with the added proviso that the show be held on the 4th.
But on Monday, Branquinho said he may have been misunderstood when he spoke about the matter last week. His shift may render the issue of a simultaneous show moot, since there would be no support for it on the council.
Last week, Branquinho said he agreed with Barbosa–that holding July 4 on the 3rd was like holding Christmas Eve on Dec. 23. He continued (you can hear the audio here): “My solution for this, due to the fact that we have good relations with Flagler Beach, very good relations, would be in my opinion, do a better show in intervals. One year we do it, next year, Flagler Beach–one year we do it, and on the Fourth. That would be my solution. I don’t know. And this way you could do it on the Fourth intercalated: they do it one year, we do it the other, and we do a bigger show, a better show. It’s just a matter of–because I know that some some of the merchants in Flagler Beach, they don’t want that. They want it every year, right there. So I don’t know, but that’s my proposal for this, is like divided, one year here, one year there.”
Clearly, both in context and substance, Branquinho had meant that the two cities would alternate fireworks on July 4 from year to year. In an interview on Monday evening with FlaglerLive, Branquinho said he had misspoken. What he meant to say was that they would alternate having the fireworks on July 4, but still have a July 3 show, so that the dual shows, on different days, would continue, as they have for the past 10 years.
“I must have not been too clear about it, what I meant to say was, the third and the fourth, we should alternate,” Branquinho said Monday evening. “I agree both shows should go on, one in one day, the other on the other day. We could alternate them. Tomorrow morning, that’s what I’m going to propose.” The council meets at 9 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.
Branquinho, like the sheriff, said simultaneous shows would be a concern. “Logistically I don’t think that’s going to be good for the sheriff,” Branquinho said. Which leaves the July 3-July 4 option, as long as Flagler Beach officials are willing to go along. He said it would require a meeting of the minds between the two cities. “Not that I want to be Solomonic about it, like King Solomon, but let’s make it fair. Both on the same day, I have some concerns.”
There is nothing sacred about Flagler Beach’s July 4 date: Flagler Beach itself set the precedent of holding the fireworks on July 3. It did so in 2010, when the holiday fell on a Saturday. In fact, that’s why Ayres of Flagler Broadcasting decided to launch the July 4 fireworks in Palm Coast that year–because he felt going the entire weekend with just the one fireworks show in Flagler Beach on the 3rd would leave “a big hole” in the weekend, and would encourage too many people to leave town to see fireworks elsewhere. And so a tradition was born. But since then, the shows have generally fallen in Palm Coast on the 3rd, and Flagler Beach on the 4th. (See: “Flagler Beach’s Independence Day Fireworks No Longer a Solo Act.”)
Last week Ayres said he expects that tradition to continue. “I think they’ll get educated,” he said of the council members insisting on the 4th. “And I think everything will work out with the two different days.”
Scott Spradley, the Flagler Beach attorney who chaired the Flagler Beach City Commission-appointed Ad Hoc Committee on July 4, which just completed its work, appeared before the Flagler Beach commission on Thursday to present the committee’s report–and to very sharply oppose the idea of simultaneous shows in the two cities. He shared his objections in an email to Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin, who shares his concerns. As he spoke, members of the Flagler Beach commission were also supportive. Spradley said he would be at the council meeting on Tuesday. (See: “Simultaneous Fireworks in Palm Coast and Flagler Beach? ‘Unworkable, Unsafe and Unsound’)
Staly raised other cautions about simultaneous shows: Palm Coast contracts for a total of 200 hours of overtime in policing per year. “If they want to spend it all in one night, then that’s their choice, they’re elected to make decisions, but we’ll be billing them for special events for the rest of the fiscal year,” Staly said. (There is interest on the city’s side to combine the fireworks with Flagler Broadcasting’s FreedomFest, though that’s generally held around Veterans Day.)
“The two days of celebrations seems to work pretty good,” Staly said, pointing out the way Orlando and Altamonte Springs toggle the days, with Altamonte Springs’s “Red White and Boom” celebrating on July 3 becoming a huge draw. The sheriff said he understands the emotional pull of July 4, saying his own ninth-generation grandfather fought in the American Revolution as a brigadier general,, while William Hopper, a ninth-generation cousin, was among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. “There may be some other people with that kind of history in Flagler County, I don’t know, but I don’t think you can get much more patriotic in a family than that,” Staly said. “It would be nice if decisions were made on facts and not just emotional decisions.”
Simultaneous shows, he said, “will be significantly harder, and it could very well be that I won’t be able to support the Flagler Beach Police Department, or not to the degree that we have in the past. But it’s speculation at this point, until the city council makes a vote. I just wish that the city of Palm Coast would coordinate a little better when they have these so they understand the impact of the decisions that are being made.”