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Mar 19, 2010

Ithaca Community Fireworks show in jeopardy

DATE: March 16, 2010, 7:40 pm
BY: Staff report
DETAILS: ITHACA -- Organizers of the 2010 Community Fireworks Show are looking for a new home, after Ithaca College officials decided they can no longer host the yearly event.

Fireworks show organizers also cautioned that this could be their last year because of dwindling donations.

Ithaca College will no longer host the Community Fireworks Show because new construction projects have reduced the area from which fireworks can be shot without compromising safety for spectators, organizers and IC officials said Tuesday.

For the past two decades, fireworks have been shot from atop the South Hill campus to celebrate Independence Day.

Beginning with the first show in 1947, a volunteer committee has organized the free event, with Cornell University and then Ithaca College serving as host locations, according to Fran Benedict, chairman of the committee.

The fireworks shows moved to IC after new buildings constructed at Cornell University closed in on the firing area near Hoy Field and Schoellkopf Field.

Also since 1947, funding for the shows has relied entirely on donations.

"Unfortunately, contributions have not kept pace with the cost of producing fireworks spectacles," Benedict said in a Tuesday press release. "The cost of producing a fireworks show such as we have enjoyed can be as much as $1,500 a minute."

Benedict said contributions in donation barrels the night of the show have fallen far below the actual cost. The 2009 fireworks display cost more than $25,000, he said, but barrel donations were only $5,500. About one-fourth of that came from the sale of glow sticks and other novelty items the night of the fireworks show.

A VIP barbecue and entertainment area near the firing site has helped underwrite the cost of fireworks shows, Benedict said.

"We have enough in our reserve fund to produce one last blast, providing we can find a suitable location for firing and viewing," Benedict said in the statement.

When the Theory Center building at Cornell was constructed, Ithaca College provided its upper athletic fields as a firing site. Last summer, however, a new residence hall was built in a portion of the parking lot near the South Hill firing site. Measurements to determine a safe and legal firing area show that continued use of that site is not possible, Benedict and IC spokesman Dave Maley said.

"We have been delighted to host community fireworks shows for the past two decades," Ithaca College President Tom Rochon said in a statement. "With the construction of new buildings and concerns for the safety of our facilities and spectators, however, our campus no longer is a suitable location for a display on the scale of this annual event."

The 2008 fireworks show at IC caused several small fires including one in the grass roof of the then-new Dorothy D. and Roy H. Park Center for Business and Sustainable Enterprise. That incident played a part in IC's decision, Maley said.

"Certainly that was one of the things that was looked at in determining the overall safety issue," he said.

Both Ithaca College and Cornell have been "wonderful hosts" for 62 years, Benedict said. "We could not have had great fireworks shows without the cooperation and support of the IC and Cornell staff, along with area fire and police agencies, Tompkins Trust Company, TCAT transit service, and our media partners -- Cayuga Radio Group and The Ithaca Journal, among many other local organizations."

Benedict said attendance at fireworks shows in the last 10 years has dwindled, as have on-site donations.

"Thousands of people watch the show from area hillsides and parks, for example, far more than the number of people who have watched on the IC campus in recent years. Unfortunately, we get very few donations from people watching from these other locations," he said.

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bellis wrote:
Why not shoot them off on the lake?
3/17/2010 7:05:48 AM


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