The 4th of July will be noticeably quieter in many cities and towns across the country this year.
That’s because fireworks — and the local workers who make fireworks shows happen — are in short supply due to a combination of supply-chain lags and pandemic-related job changes. Those issues, along with environmental risks, have led to many municipalities delaying their pyrotechnic displays by days or even months, or simply canceling them altogether.
In Phoenix, this year’s three major fireworks shows were canceled after the city’s contractor was unable to find fireworks for the event due to “ongoing supply chain issues,” the city said in a post on its website. The same was true in Ottawa, Kansas, where the fireworks the city ordered are still stuck on a ship coming from China, The Wall Street Journal reports. Ottawa will now host its July 4th fireworks show a bit late — two months late, in fact.
Earlier this year, the American Pyrotechnics Association, a trade group for the fireworks industry, warned of a challenging fireworks season ahead. Raw-materials costs have jumped 20% and shipping costs have risen “dramatically” since 2019, from $8,000 to $10,000 per shipping container to $45,000 per container, the group said.
But for some metros, the issue isn’t a lack of fireworks, but a lack of pyrotechnicians, the people responsible for putting on the displays. Julie Heckman, the APA’s executive director, told The Journal that many pyrotechnicians found other jobs during the pandemic after fireworks-worthy events — celebrations, concerts, and the like — were few and far between. Some of those workers never returned to the fireworks industry, she told The Journal.
That shortage is hitting Fairfax, Virginia, where residents will still see a fireworks show this year, but on July 5 instead of July 4.
“The evening show was originally scheduled for July 4, but the city’s fireworks vendor canceled more than two dozen contracts due to a shortage of licensed pyrotechnicians,” according to the city’s website.
The city of Minneapolis will be skipping its annual fireworks display over the Mississippi River due to staffing shortages as well, in addition to construction in the local park, the city announced.
But shortages aren’t the only reason cities are rethinking fireworks displays. In Flagstaff, Arizona, a laser light show will replace a traditional fireworks display this year after the region experienced wildfires this spring that led to hundreds of households needing to evacuate.
After fires ravaged Lake Tahoe last August, North Lake Tahoe will skip fireworks as well, opting instead for a drone “SkyShow” that “better aligns with our focus on environmental stewardship for the region,” a city official said.
In other regions — such as Lake Don Pedro, California, and Claremont, California — drought is putting fireworks shows on hiatus. Roughly 650,000 gallons of water are required to wet the area where fireworks are released, which isn’t allowed under local water restrictions, a spokesperson for the city of Claremont told The New York Times.
Local residents can enjoy a free concert in place of fireworks, the city said.