Council focus is on last ditch effort to fund town fireworks

Fireworks conversation like a talk with Tony Soprano

While the majority of the Crested Butte Town Council voiced a desire to not talk about fireworks anymore, they’ll be talking about them for at least a few more weeks. They want to get a feel for exactly how much the “community” wants to have a show launched from downtown.
In other words, how much are local residents and businesses willing to take from their own wallets to see a show on the Fourth of July from downtown Crested Butte? If the community is willing to come up with at least $5,000 before Wednesday, June 16 to add to the town’s budgeted $3,000, Crested Butte will hold its own fireworks show this July Fourth.



That was the conclusion of the Town Council at its Monday, June 7 meeting. The goal is to have the same company that is launching the Mt. Crested Butte show at about 9 p.m. come down to Crested Butte and start a second pyrotechnics show about 9:30.
The council members also want to officially sit down with their Mt. Crested Butte counterparts before Independence Day and figure out the future of collaborative fireworks in the valley. As far as the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce is concerned, executive director Richard Bond told the council that his board made it clear that “We are no longer in the fireworks business after this year.”
So the council will approach Crested Butte businesses, residents and second homeowners and ask them to contribute money to a fireworks show. Councilmember Phoebe Wilson is the official point person for the endeavor.
As it stands, the town of Mt. Crested Butte and Crested Butte Mountain Resort are partnering for $14,000 to put on an 18-minute display following an evening Mama’s Cookin’ concert at the base of the ski area. That decision miffed the Crested Butte council, which was under the impression the fireworks would be launched from downtown after being set off on the mountain last year. And it has been a bone of contention between the two communities the last month.
During Monday’s council meeting, the discussion centered on several options. Mayor Leah Williams said she had talked to Jim Burnett of fireworks producer Western Enterprises, who said he could actually launch a daytime or evening show sometime after the scheduled 4 p.m. patriotic concert at the Center for the Arts. A show could be launched on Saturday night, July 3 or the council could decide not to do a show this year at all, save the $3,000 budgeted for the event and put it toward a better show in 2011.
“This is a very sensitive subject and I want to take the high road, whatever that might be,” Williams said.
“I think having it on the third of July is silly,” said councilperson Dan Escalante, “and having fireworks when it is still light out is totally lame. I’d lean toward putting the money into next year’s fireworks budget. As far as this year, I guess we could do it at night after the show in Mt. Crested Butte.”
Phoebe Wilson initially argued against that choice. “It’s not in the best interest of the valley to have more than one show. And given these economic times, it might not be appropriate to spend that money,” she said, “but I think we need an agreement with Mt. Crested Butte before this year’s July Fourth festivities.”
“I think we need to meet with Mt. Crested Butte yesterday,” added councilperson Reed Betz. “I feel backed into a corner with the way they handled this and I don’t think we were ever on their radar. They didn’t have any intention of working together and that’s disappointing since we’re neighbors. Personally, the fireworks show is for the people who live and visit here. I’ve talked to a lot of people about this and almost everyone wants to have a show downtown. I think we as a council need to mobilize and find the additional money for a good show.”
Councilperson Jim Schmidt expressed disappointment that “Mt Crested Butte didn’t honor a gentlemen’s agreement made last year to alternate the launch site every other year. They want it up there and we want it down here. The compromise is to alternate,” he said. “One of the most disappointing things to me was having a conversation with the mayor of Mt. Crested Butte [William Buck] and he kept saying to me that ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business.’ He sounded just like Tony Soprano. The thing is, it is reasonable to alternate it every other year.”
Councilperson Roland Mason said it was evident to him the mountain wanted the event for the long haul. “If they are spending $11,000 this year that is saying they want it up there every year,” he said. “It seems like an initiative to take the summer visitors and move them up the mountain from town. As a council, we need to start planning our own events. We need to take control back. We need to fight for what we have in the summer. This is a deeper issue than just fireworks.”
Williams agreed with the deeper issue theory. “This feeling of unhealthy competition between the two communities is not good,” she said. “We need to work together and compete against Telluride and Steamboat—not each other.”
Betz argued strongly to hold a show from Crested Butte this year, with or without Mt. Crested Butte. Wilson responded that to hold a show this year would be rushed and might feel like it was being held out of spite instead of celebration.
“It’s not out of spite, it’s out of taking care of our own,” said Betz.
“It’s sort of like the Snodgrass issue in that if we can’t figure out how to at least come together on some of the issues, people will perceive us all as negative,” Wilson said. “That’s not good for anyone.”
Escalante suggested the council reach out to the local businesses and residents and see how serious they are about helping to provide a show downtown. “Let’s see how much we can raise for a show before the next regular meeting,” he suggested.
Bond said he had spoken to Western Enterprises and it was possible to have two sequential shows. He did say that $3,000 would provide about four minutes of fireworks.
Town Manager Susan Parker said recent shows had cost between $10,000 and $12,000. “You should set a goal of spending at least $10,000,” she said. “Those are the shows we’ve enjoyed.”
“Let’s get the pulse of the town in the next week,” said Mason. “It’s an opportunity for those that say they want it down here to pull money out of their pocket, and I know that will be hard for some people in this economic climate.”
The council agreed to send council members Schmidt and Escalante to Mt. Crested Butte on a mission to strike a deal about the future of fireworks. For this year, Phoebe Wilson is the “fireworks queen” and if the “community” ponies up at least $5,000 a downtown show will take place. If the $5,000 community goal is not reached, the town will forgo the fireworks for this year.
If you wish to contribute to the downtown fireworks show, contact Phoebe Wilson at (503) 757-6677 or call her at the Dogwood Cocktail Cabin at 349-6338.
Western Enterprises said the very latest deadline for them to arrange a show for Crested Butte is Wednesday, June 16. So the council will discuss the issue and see how much of a pulse the community has for a Crested Butte fireworks show at its special meeting scheduled for Monday, June 14 at 6 p.m.

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