Note: this is a follow-up to today’s earlier article, “July 4 Fireworks in Flagler Beach May Not Happen as Long-Time Pyro Supplier Santore Is Booked Elsewhere.”
Flagler Beach could have had its July 4 fireworks had the city not waited until April 24 to first contact its usual fireworks producer for the July 4 show. But by then, Fireworks by Santore was already booked up on that day, and could only do a show on July 2 that weekend. But a series of unfortunate events and outdated assumptions rather than malice or incompetence were like a dud on the fuse, starting with Covid’s upending effects.
“It takes a lot to do a fireworks show, a lot of preparations, and you’re calling on April 24 for a July 4 show? Come on,” said Eric Larsen, the Fireworks by Santore partner who handles local shows. Santore was never under contract with the city, whose burden it was to contact the company for July 4.
Larsen said the city had itself dropped Fireworks by Santore in 2020 because of Covid, when most cities did, and again in 2021, when most cities did not–including St. Augustine, Ormond Beach and Palm Coast, all of which had fireworks shows. “You don’t hear from somebody for two years, what are we suppose to do? So yes, if they contacted us at the beginning, early February, March, we would have been able to be in a better situation. April, 24, ‘Hey, we want to be able to do fireworks? Come on.”
At a meeting late Thursday night, the Flagler Beach City Commission voted to hold July 4 celebrations on that day, with or without fireworks, in hopes of securing a different fireworks provider. But several things were said by officials at the meeting that were either inaccurate or incomplete, and a key point of information was left out: the commission was not aware that it was not until April 24 that the city contacted Santore to book the show.
“Someone dropped the ball, and the commission was painted a completely different picture,” Mayor Suzie Johnston said.
The commission in January had voted to accept the recommendations of its own appointed July 4 committee, which called for resuming Independence Day fireworks after a two-year hiatus. Johnston, who served on the committee as an ex-officio member, considered it a given that the city would do what it had done in the past–contact the company to set up the fireworks. (It’s not commissioners’ job to get involved in those administrative steps.)
Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson told the commission Thursday that “we are once again victims of Covid. There are not enough certified licensed people to do these things. And the price tag on doing them keeps going up and up.” He said Santore could only guarantee a show for $25,000 on July 2, not July 4. “Then they suggested that we go to another smaller provider that wasn’t quite as busy and booked up, that may be able to do this on the fourth. I’ve been in conversations with the new provider, Imperial Fireworks.”
Fireworks by Santore “never recommended” Imperial Fireworks, a very small, new operator, Larsen said, referring to Jack Lambert, who established his company in 2018. “Zambelli or Pyrotecnico, that’s the only people we would recommend.”
Lambert, in an interview today, said his is a smaller operation, but also versatile and a producer of 20-minute shows–the kind of shows his company has been producing at Port Canaveral and the City of Cocoa since 2019, for example, and that he’d want to produce for Flagler Beach. He said he’d want to put on “something my company will be proud of and something your community will be proud of.” That means a 20-minute show, assuming he can fit it into his bookings.
Santore is facing staffing and materials challenges, considering that upwards of 90 percent of fireworks originate in China, where supply has been bottlenecked. Santore operates with part-timers, since fireworks companies can go months without any shows anywhere, then suddenly be swamped by bookings, especially in the summer months. But the sort of part-timers the industry could rely on in the past–teachers, retired firefighters and the like–found other ways to make summer cash during the pandemic, and have not returned. “March 15 was usually our deadline for getting everybody in, but again, we have changed our busines model,” Larsen said. Rather than send out booking notices to regular customers around then, the company has since relied on customers reaching out. “We take it by call, we fill up by spots, and that’s how we do it, there’s enough work out there that we don’t have to solicit.”
Flagler Beach Fire Chief Bobby Pace–who did not address the commission on the matter last night–would contact Gary De Lia at Santore to set up the July 4 show. But De Lia retired last year. “My guys tell me hey, we always talked with Gary, and we didn’t know he wasn’t there no more,” Whitson said this morning. (Whitson himself didn’t have contact with Santore, since Pace was the point person on the task.) “I heard about it a few weeks ago and we’ve been scrambling ever since to come up with the right plan,” Whitson said. “I just know the staff was clarifying with me before the commission meeting last night that if we wanted it, they offered July 2nd.”
Asked about the usual process of booking the fireworks show, Whitson said: “I’m new, just coming into this, I just know the staff has been working on this for some time and the fact that we didn’t know that the normal contact retired was a big complication that happened.” Whitson has yet to manage a year with fireworks in Flagler Beach since he took over a little over a year ago.
“I talked to one person at Flagler Beach and it’s Bobby Pace,” Larsen said, stressing that the company would “absolutely” have provided the July 4 show on July 4, for $25,000 (money provided by the Flagler County Tourist Development Council). “Do they ever plan? No, they don’t plan, so why is their lack of planning now become a slander against our company?” Larsen said. “Chief Pace is the only person that I’ve spoken to in this whole time, and I was straight up honest with him, we’re not going to do something we can’t produce.”
Larsen strongly disputed other statements made at the commission meeting, such as the impression that Fireworks by Santore would not book less lucrative shows.
Mayor Suzy Johnston put it this way: “I spoke with Santore Fireworks and this is a staffing issue. This is a budget issue. They are turning down jobs of $50,000. So basically until we have an investment up into $100,000, we would not have fireworks on the Fourth of July. It’s the same amount of labor and so their profit is cut doing smaller jobs.”
In fact, Johnston spoke with a Santore family member who is not in any way associated with the fireworks company , and hasn’t been for a while, though he knows the business and spoke to Johnston to give her context about the industry’s economics. It was that Santore who suggested Imperial Fireworks, not Larsen or anyone connected to Larsen. As for the dollar figures presented by the mayor, Larsen said “Disney’s show doesn’t cost $100,000. There isn’t a show in the state of Florida that has a $100,000 budget,” nor has the Boston Pops’s famous fireworks show, or the shows at the Speedway in Daytona, which are produced by Fireworks by Santore.
“We didn’t even talk money when I said we’d do July 2, we would have just made it work,” Larsen said. “We are a safe professional company, we put on some of the best shows, and yes, we are based in Flagler County.”
So, FB Officials awesome Santore family business was to just sit around and wait for their call. After the City of PC wanting their fireworks on July 4th you would think the elected FB Officials would have their act together better, guess not. Who elects these losers?
I do take back what I said earlier. Still Santore does put on an excellent show compared to other companies too bad FB dropped the ball. Amazing, must be following the Palm Coast Council on delaying things until it’s too late.
That’s OK, no reason to ever overpay for a Fireworks show, $ 100K is just a scam, heck $ 50K is if the $ 25K show was contingent. If the can get their labor team over there on July 4th for $ 100K, it’s now a staffing problem. it’s just a bunch of fireworks frauds overcharging in Biden’s unaffordable America of inflation 2022. Not the end of the world that the fireworks doesn’t happen. Since they backed out for July 4th, go one better, cancel anything NYE (New Year’s Evening) when they don’t make any money, nobody cares about their fireworks. I doubt anyone is going to skip watching the Palm Coast fireworks from Flagler Beach. Those fireworks are visible from there and it’s a 15 minute show at best ? After the fire at the Christmas parade, who cares about July 4th fireworks show. And the other win, the property that was going to be a tourist center sold and saved the county $ 3/4 million on that. Lower taxes, safer community, whoever bought the property now has to pay taxes on $ 1.5 million on a purchase & whatever appraised value the property has every year. As taxpayers, we couldn’t have been blessed more to avoid some really bad decisions the elected types have been making over recent years. Gotta get rid of the one’s that gave themselves raises and whatever else they’ve been screwing up from the Holland & into the Alfin era of Palm Coast. Who is running against Mullins ? Time to move on from him, same goes with Danko. What’s the status on that lawsuit Mullins is going thru regarding the sports tickets fraud ?
You’re ranting. Take a walk on the beach! lol
Yeah Now Biden is in charge of Firework Show prices that weren’t ordered on Time. Unhinged sounds desperate. You forgot Mickey Mouse Looney Tunes and Math Books
Wow Jimbo your comments make it sound like you know every facet of the fireworks industry. Clearly you did not read the article, as no representative from Fireworks By Santore said anything about $100k. Do you really know what it entails to produce a 10 minute display, how many fees from start to finish from government agencies there are just to produce a simple display. Then on top of that the countless hours in the sun during the summer, the rain, the heavy lifting, long 12-16 hour days just to produce a small display for very small profit margins. I challenge you to step up, contact Santore, put your words to the test, work a July run with them and see if you have the same critique and negative attitude as you do now. I would wager you won’t and just want to be a keyboard warrior trying to speak of an industry you know nothing about!
Jimbo is Angry says
Jimbo, you must be one lonely, angry soul. I am not even sure you understood what you read. You just had a mindless rant you wanted to get off your fingertips. Its so funny how these little articles work. Had the story been Flagler Beach awarded a fireworks bid to company X for $50,000.00, the comments would have been how dare Flagler Beach ‘waste’ $50k on fireworks. And had that bid been awarded to a company out of Pennsylvania, not one person would stand up and say why would Flagler Beach hire a company from PA instead of one in Flagler County. Always a critic, never a solution.
It’s so funny how everything seems to be the fault of a President. I will assume you voted for a person that had not one ounce of political knowledge and all his countless mistakes and lies were just fine cause he was fixing things. Understand the job and don’t hate the people doing the job. I take it you work for a corporation that is in business to make money, not make sure Jimbo is happy. Is that Joe Biden’s fault too?
You lost me at supporting more products from China. Not that I didn’t know this, but that is for the reminder. We did fine without them for the past two years. Let China light itself up.
I’m sure you are unaware of the industry as well. Unfortunately, the United States government agencies strictly regulations for manufacturing fireworks limit what can be made in the United States, therefore making the products you see on shows 10x more expensive. If people complain about a $25k fireworks show to produce that show with all American products would cost over $200k. Most fireworks companies can important more finished product from other companies cheaper than they would to be able to service just one show with American product. For the record not everything comes from China but the majority, other countries also are imported from.
Tammy, I am sure you are the same person that complains about prices costing too much. I am sure you have a house full of china products. I bet fireworks companies wish they could buy domestic products. Ive read articles where fireworks made in the USA cost 2000% more than fireworks made in China. So if we gave up on supporting products from around the world, you would be the same person posting its a crime the Flagler Beach is spending 2000% more than the list $25k on a July 4th Celebration. What would be your comment be on this headline.
Flagler Beach hires American Fireworks company that will shoot all American products all for the cheap price of $525,000.00. Come join us as we celebrate our independence!
City of FB, overtaxing, under performing, must be a Flagler County requirement.
Opportunity knocking says
This is the perfect opportunity… to get ready for New Year’s Fire works. Maybe next time the not so new city manager of Flagler Beach can put someone in charge of arranging the fireworks that has skills in procurement.
The dude says
Abject incompetence is a requirement for elected officials here in Flagler County Floriduh… clearly.
That is not a fire chief’s responsibility to set up the firework process. Why do you have to slander those within our community? I thought Flagler Beach was supposed to be full of kind, caring people. I feel like we have been so blessed to have Pace as a fire chief, as he has done a great deal for this community. He was trying his best to get this ordeal worked out, which AGAIN is not his responsibility in the first place.
Land of no turn signals says says
Money well saved.