This time, the Flagler Beach City Commission decided it early and swiftly, perhaps to spare itself and residents last year’s roller-coaster of promises, dashed hopes and embarrassing missteps: for the fourth year in a row, there will be no July 4 fireworks in the city.
Nor will there be a laser-light show, or a drones show, two unwieldy or expensive options the city considered. But there will be better-funded entertainment downtown to keep the celebration from being just “a drunk day at the beach” as it has been in the past, in the words of City Clerk Penny Overstreet.
City commissioners agreed to somehow join forces with Flagler County and Palm Coast governments in their joint Fireworks Over the Runways venture at the county airport. Last year’s edition there drew thousands and featured large-caliber fireworks that light up the sky for miles and make timpanis of ear drums.
Last year the city could have had a show, but the manager at the time failed to coordinate with Fireworks by Santore, the city’s usual vendor, to line up the event. After numerous attempts to salvage it, including serious doubts about a potential fireworks vendor who’d substitute for Santore, the commission elected to drop the whole effort. It was a turning point in City Manager William Whitson’s tenure. he never recovered, and was fired earlier this month.
In December Whitson had asked City Clerk Penny Overstreet to issue a bid package seeking proposals for a fireworks show, a laser/light show or a drone show. The request was not advertised, but was rather sent directly to 13 vendors–10 for fireworks, two for drone shows and one for a laser show. None responded by the time the bidding window closed on Jan. 30.
So the city contacted vendors directly, and drew out two proposals, one from Master Pyro Displays and one from North Florida Pyrotechnics. Both were proposing to set off “low-level fireworks” that could be set off from the remaining portion of the pier closest to the shore. The rest of the pier has been condemned, and will soon be demolished.
“I learned that the low-level fireworks are a ‘Class C’ firework, which is what you or I could purchase at
Phantom or Sam’s,” Overstreet told the commission in a memo. “The two proposers where offering a ‘Class C Professional,’ which I understood to have a bit more pizazz that those regular consumers could buy. One proposer claims his product has zero fall-out. Needless to say, the low level show would not be what attendees would expect but the effort was put forth to have a show within the constraints we faced.”
The city considered having its fireworks show over the Intracoastal or at its golf course at the south end of town. But neither option provided for the 500-foot radius required for a fallout zone, away from spectators. Setting them off from a barge would be impractical, and the city’s safety officers (the fire and police chiefs) did not sign off on any of the plans.
“To further add issues to this, the day that Mr. Whitson was terminated, he had met with Flagler County and Palm Coast at their monthly managers’ meeting and was discussing the county and Palm Coast’s joint venture for a fireworks show at the airport. He wasn’t provided the opportunity to report that back to you at our meeting that night.”
Palm Coast and county governments will again hold a Fireworks Over the Runways show at the county airport this year. It will be “a more scaled-down version,” a Palm Coast spokesperson said. “More picnic-style than last year’s heavily vendored event, though there will be some food trucks and vendors available.” The fireworks show will still be around 20 minutes. Funding has not been finalized.
The planned airport show “worsens our situation as it takes away the resources that the safety officers need to hold fireworks” in Flagler Beach, Overstreet said. Last year the Sheriff’s Office and other agencies and volunteers who participated in coordinating the traditional fireworks show in the city in previous years warned that their resources could not handle a show there and at the airport in the same 24 to 48-hour span.
That left the city with replicating last year’s July 4 schedule: hosting the Rotary-organized parade down State Road A1A, handing over the day’s entertainment to Vern Shanks, who also organizes the monthly First Friday festivities, with entertainment shows in the park.
The city has $25,000 budgeted for fireworks, and $7,000 budgeted for portable toilets and for bus shuttle service from the mainland to the barrier island. Whitson had considered giving $10,000 to the county or the city to have Flagler Beach included in the airport show’s promotional material.
“Our residents will go to the fireworks whether our logo is on promotional materials or not,” Commissioner Jane Mealy said, questioning the steep cost of the sponsorship. Mayor Suzy Johnston said in her discussions with County Administrator Heidi Petito, the idea is to “bundle” all Independence Day events together–cities and the county–into a “true, county Fourth of July,” celebrating in the morning at the beach, “then come back to the airport for the fireworks.”
Overstreet had another idea, which the commissioners embraced: “The rotary does two parades for the city every year and we’ve never thrown a dime at then,” she said, referring to the Rotary’s Independence Day and Holiday parades, the latter just before Christmas. “So wouldn’t it be nice to give them some money that they in turn take out and do good things in our community with, and also Vern, maybe throw some money at him, where we could have a better band, a better entertainment, and bring families back in the park for that day and not have it a drunk day at the beach, like it has been with the fireworks.”
Commissioners were more interested in contributing money to Shanks and the Rotary, without as yet excluding a county contribution. The city will still need some of the money itself to coordinate the events. July 4 falls on a Tuesday this year.
Commissioner Eric Cooley said the city would have to “muddle through” what amounts would be contributed, leaving dollar amounts undetermined for now–whether to the county or to the individual organizations. That will be determined at a later meeting.
“The county invited us to join them, and that’s a big effort on their part and we should we should reciprocate and join,” Johnston said.
Commissioners were at the tail end of their fifth hour of a six-hour meeting Thursday evening when they took up the fireworks issue, which took all of 15 minutes. They were amazed by the quick resolution, as were Cooley and Mealy, who for the second time Thursday evening, agreed on an issue. No one had brought sparklers to mark the occasion.
Thomas A Kaspar Jr says
No July 4th fireworks no pirates just whining eating all the doughnuts and taking license plate pictures .
Fireworks shows are cost-prohibitive anymore. 20 minutes of fireworks, celebrate being an American every day of the year. Have a special gathering for the 4th of July to commemorate that doesn’t involve fireworks. That works for me.
Just forget about fireworks in Flagler Beach at least until the pier is done. Speaking of the pier, why spend $18 million instead of $1 million for a fix. I know it might get damaged again, but the way I figure you can fix it 18 times at that rate over the next 50 years.
It’s very sad what has happened to this city. I’m not going to call it home much longer.
So true. What used to be a quaint and quiet little beach town has turned into a sprawling disaster seven days a week, with traffic spilling over into the neighborhoods. Our commissioners should be ashamed of what they’ve done to Flagler Beach, disregarding the “lifelong” residents. As for Flagler Beach partnering up with Palm Coast for fireworks…enjoy that cesspool too.
What a effing joke! Red light cameras and Lpr system. The red light cameras were supposed to generate $700,000 a yeah. The annual fireworks show costs an average of $125,00. How about instead of your officers sitting their butts for hours on end their they do their damm job! Why dosent the Chief leave like the city manager? This is complete BS! Do your effing job. When I see an officer sitting in the median for hours and yes I have watched for hours, obviously Matt dosent know how to run a police department. Ask Mike Chitwood!
Thomas Kaspar says
Welcome to Karen Beach home of Margaritaville where John Moodys home is left to fall apart .
Concerned Citizen says
Fire works are going to be a moot point if we don’t start getting some rain soon.
Very dry out there for this time of year. KBDI is steadily climbing. No substantial rainfall in weeks. Let’s hope we start getting regular rain. Or we will end up looking at postponing any celebratory displays as they’ve done in the past. Of course there will be those who insist laws and observing Wild Fire danger don’t apply to them.
Flagler Failures says
Flagler Beach will be UNDER WATER in the near future. Sell your houses now. Get out while you can. Home Insurance , if you can find a company, is well over $10,000 for a $350.00 home. Sell it quick to dumbass New York transients or New Jersey limp biscuits.
I find this sad . I’m sorry 4th of July at Flagler Beach was always our families favorite holiday ! And it’s not ALL DRUNKS at the beach! I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way!
Land of no turn signals says says
Not spending 2 day’s cleaning up he beach at tax payers expensive sounds like a plan.
Land of no turn signals says says
Beach not being destroyed for July 4th 2023 ? What a shame
Good. Fireworks displays are harmful to house pets, birds, fish, and other wildlife as well as re-traumatizing to Veterans. Large crowds generate tons of waste in addition to the waste the fireworks shed from the air.