City’s grand fireworks show could be on the move

Claremont’s Grand Old Fourth of July is going to look and feel a bit different this year. The ongoing drought and statewide urban water restrictions have forced the city to seek alternatives for the annual fireworks show traditionally held on Strehle Track at Pomona College.

On Thursday, April 30, the Independence Day Committee held a special meeting to discuss proposals on an alternative fireworks show for the city’s 2015 Fourth of July celebration, led by Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor.

“Claremont High School really appears to be the best option. It will be similar to homecoming but on a larger scale and would entail watching fireworks from the bleachers and on the football field,” Mr. Tudor explained. “I want to emphasize that this really has to do only with the impact of the drought and the water restrictions coming out of it. It has nothing to do with budget cuts.”

During their April 28 meeting, the Claremont City Council adopted a resolution affirming the city manager’s declaration of a Level 2 water supply shortage in compliance with the state’s emergency regulations. The regulations under Level 2, which include a two-day-a-week watering pattern go into effect May 11, allowing city staff time to enact changes in water uses practices to move Claremont toward the 32 percent mandatory reduction.

“One of the things that came up at that meeting was the amount of water that goes into keeping the wash area and the soccer field around the fireworks show from igniting during and after the show,” Mr. Tudor told the committee. “It uses a substantial amount of water—about 400,000 to 500,000 gallons—which, just to give you an idea, is the average for three households for one year.”

Working in partnership with the Claremont Unified School District, the city has proposed using the baseball field at CHS near Oxford Avenue as a launching pad for this year’s fireworks show. The field will maintain its two-day-a-week watering schedule but will also be supplemented by hand-watering prior to the event.

“We’ve also discussed the use of foam to combat the ashy debris that comes back down on the field,” said Human Services Director Anne Turner. “Nothing has been decided as of yet.”

While holding the fireworks show at CHS may offer a solution to the water problem, it does present a few challenges of its own. The football field at CHS is an artificial turf, meaning it gets hot and is not conducive to the typical picnic-style party Claremont patriots are accustomed to.

“We can’t bring chairs or other things that could puncture the turf. And there will be no food allowed on the field, only drinking water,” explained Mr. Tudor.

The city hopes to secure an area on the service road just north of the field and offer tables and chairs so folks can enjoy the traditional offerings of the Kiwanis Club before The Ravelers concert and fireworks.

“We will set up the grill and eating area on the blacktop,” said Kiwanis President Dennis Bauman. “Using the snack shack would not work for us because people would just go on the field. I don’t know how this really is going to work. It’s going to be a real interesting deal.”

Ticket sales to the celebration will also be impacted this year due in large part to the limited seating available at the high school. Last year, nearly 6,000 tickets were purchased for the event. This year, ticket sales will max out between 3,000 and 4,000, as the bleachers can seat about 2,700 guests with the field offering additional blanket seating for remaining ticketholders.

Anticipating a loss this year, the Independence Day Committee approved taking up to $20,000 from their “rainy day fund” to offset any financial shortfall.

As proposed, the fireworks show put on by Bay Fireworks will also see some changes this year to accommodate the new venue. In years past, the pyrotechnic company has used 3-inch and 4-inch shells for the Claremont show, but smaller 2-inch shells would now be used to reduce the amount of fallout from the fireworks. There was also a bit of talk about the addition of a field fireworks display, but nothing has been set in stone.

The city intends to send notice to nearby CHS residents sometime this week, alerting them to the possible change of venue.

The fireworks show alternative will be discussed before city council during their meeting on Tuesday, May 12. Public comment is welcome.

—Angela Bailey


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