Losing July 4th fireworks causes, well, fireworks

June 16, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

Annapolis may have no fireworks this Fourth of July, but sparks will be flying.

Already residents and business people are voicing their displeasure over the city's decision to cancel the traditional Independence Day show for lack of money.

"This is dreadful," said Tom Kammerer, manager of the Annapolis Marriott. Each year residents gather on the hotel balcony to watch the fireworks explode above the Severn River.

"I think it's stupid," 14-year-old Ian Ljungquist said as he waited at a bus stop in Eastport. "They're breaking tradition."

City officials say there's a slim chance of putting on the show if the money is found. Alderman Carl O. Snowden, a Ward 5 Democrat and chairman of the City Council's finance committee, said that if enough people pressure the council within the next three days, some money might be scraped together before the 1995 budget is adopted on Monday.

But, he said he has heard little from the residents.

Fred Paone, chairman of the Annapolis Committee that oversaw the private fund raising for the event, said he believes there is still time to put on a show if the city comes up with the money to pay for police services.

However, most feel there won't be any fireworks this year.

"I'm not optimistic," Mr. Paone said. "But if some member of the public handed us a pile of money, we'd gratefully accept it."

City-sponsored fireworks in Annapolis go back at least 25 years. For many residents, it is unthinkable that there would be no fireworks in Maryland's capital, home of the U.S. Naval Academy and the place where four signers of the Declaration of Independence once lived.

But this year, faced with depleted city coffers, Mayor Alfred A. JTC Hopkins decided to forego the $50,000 celebration.

"I'm trying to cut expenses without cutting services," he said.

Each year, businesses and citizens donate about $14,000 toward the show. Mr. Hopkins said he did not believe enough private money could be raised to pay for police services and the barge from which the fireworks are launched.

"I'm not anti-fireworks," the mayor said. "July 4th means a hell of a lot to me."

Mr. Kammerer and others said they were angry city officials did not give people more notice about the cancellation. This might have given the public time to raise money, they said.

Although the city had talked about canceling the show for months, it was not officially announced until last week.

"By the time we realized it, it was too late," he said.

A number of city businesses benefit from the fireworks show, which draws about 70,000 people a year, Mr. Kammerer said.

In past years, 100 to 200 people would take a Chesapeake Marine Tours boat out into the Severn for one of the best views of the show.

"We are very disappointed," said Mary Ann Howard, the company's sales administrator. "I think everyone will miss it."

The company is planning to carry passengers to see Baltimore's fireworks display, she said.

"This is about as short-sighted as you can get," said Linda LeBow, a waitress at Davis's Pub in Eastport.

Lee Troutner, the pub's owner, said his bar, like others in the neighborhood, always drew big crowds on July 4th night. He blamed the city for not trying to find alternatives that would have lowered the cost of the show. "Common sense doesn't prevail here," he said.

Cindy Eckard, a Homewood resident, said the July 4th celebration seemed to be one thing the often divided city could agree on.

"It's part of tradition," she said. "You don't tamper with fireworks."

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