Fourth of July fireworks displays burn a hole in county’s pocket

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Amidst supply chain shortages and shipping delays, the rising cost of fireworks is burning a bigger hole in the county’s pocket than ever before.

The cost of this year’s Fourth of July fireworks displays will be between 30 and 40 percent higher than it was in 2021, according to estimates brought before the Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka city governments in recent meetings.

“I met with our Fireworks folks the other day looking at July 4, and just like with everything else, the price has gone up,” Port St. Joe City Manager Jime Anderson said in a March city meeting, as the municipality prepared to order their fireworks.

“We have $15,000 budgeted, but the amount we’re looking at for the same show this year is $19,500.”

Similar sentiments were expressed on the County’s north end, where Wewahitchka was told that the cost of their display was raised from $11,000 to $15,000.

With the cities unable to secure the additional funds to put on the shows residents and visitors have come to expect, Gulf County has stepped in to pay the difference.

In a March county meeting, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to allocate an additional $5,000 for each city’s Fourth of July fireworks display, with the money coming from Tourism Development Council funds. The county already supplies $5,000 annually for each municipality’s July 4 celebration.

Experts in the fireworks industry have pointed to the supply chain breakdown as the culprit to rising costs.

Fireworks are shipped to the United States from overseas, and with a shortage of shipping containers and ocean liners, shipping costs have risen sharply. The American Pyrotechnics Association said overall costs in the industry are up 35 percent. .

Even when the fireworks do reach U.S. soil, they still face a shortage of trucks to transport them to their final destinations and increasing labor costs for those who coordinate elaborate displays such as the ones planned in Gulf County.

This squeeze is being felt elsewhere in the panhandle. In April, the City of Milton had to ask Santa Rosa County for assistance with the rise in costs for the annual Riverfest 2022 Fourth of July Celebration.

The shows, which have been annual traditions in these towns for decades, have come to be some of the most highly anticipated community gatherings of the year and are usually very well attended.

“They really do a fantastic job,” said Wewahitchka Mayor Philip Gaskin at the city’s Feb 24 meeting. “But I’ll tell you what, $15,000 for about 25 minutes is an awful lot of money.”

Wewahitchka will be hosting their annual display at Lake Alice Park on July 4. It is scheduled to begin at dark. 

Port St. Joe will be hosting their annual display at Clifford Sims Park at 10 p.m. EDT, also on July 4.

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