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Fireworks crowd fizzles out before finale; Lackluster Fourth of July show blamed on new Texas contractor

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City officials said a lackluster Fourth of July fireworks show was the result of a poor performance by the contractor the city hired to take over the annual pyrotechnic display at Cielo Grande Recreation Area.

Many people in the large crowd at Cielo Grande Recreation Area did not wait for the grand finale of Tuesday’s annual Mike Satterfield Memorial Fireworks Extravaganza, which was delayed for about 25 minutes from its 9:15 p.m. scheduled start, due to winds. Heavy traffic exiting the recreation area formed before the final fireworks were set off at about 10 p.m.
Several people told the Daily Record Wednesday that this year’s fireworks show, sponsored by the city and the Roswell Sertoma Club, was one of the least impressive pyrotechnic shows the city has ever sponsored. In contrast, reviews were much better for Los Lonely Boys, which performed a concert for hundreds of people at the recreation area prior to the fireworks show.
“The city and (Roswell Fire Department) are well aware many citizens share the disappointment left by this year’s fireworks show,” city spokesperson Todd Wildermuth said in a statement late Wednesday afternoon. “The city and RFD will be determining the steps that must be taken to restore the quality of the Roswell fireworks show and ensure there are no more ‘duds’ allowed during our community’s Fourth of July celebration.”
Wildermuth said the fireworks company the city hired for this year’s show for $45,000, Precision Fireworks of Era, Texas, had a good resume, with experience working for other cities and events.
“However, the show that it produced in Roswell this week was extremely disappointing,” Wildermuth said in the statement. “The company’s preparation and final product — which it was to handle in full, from the fireworks to the music — fell well short of the expectations and requirements of the city and RFD. This occurred despite the company being well-informed when it accepted the job of the specifications of prior shows and the requirement that this year’s show would have to meet or exceed those specifications.”
Wildermuth said for the past 20 or so years, the fireworks shows have met standards of excellence through the organization and management of the Roswell Fire Department, which has planned, set up and launched the fireworks for the annual shows.
“The city of Roswell each year strives to produce a top-notch, quality Fourth of July fireworks show for its citizens, as well as residents of surrounding communities,” he said.
Shortly after the 2016 fireworks show, city and RFD officials began considering preparations for this year’s show, and it was decided to hire a contractor to put on the 2017 show.
“The contractor could be hired for about the same cost as it takes the city to purchase the fireworks – the Roswell Sertoma Club annually provides the money to the city to cover the cost of the fireworks products — and pay the overtime labor costs of firefighters to set up and carry out the show,” Wildermuth said. “At the same time, putting the show in the hands of a contractor removed city firefighters from the inherent risks faced by personnel involved in the preparation and execution of a fireworks show.”
City Councilor Caleb Grant said city officials by Wednesday had heard a lot of negative feedback about the fireworks show.
“It definitely wasn’t as good as it has been in years past, that’s for sure,” said Grant, mayor pro tem of the Roswell City Council. “Obviously, I think there were some things that could be improved upon, and being able to communicate with the public with the delay and everything else.”
Grant said the decision to hire a contractor to conduct this year’s fireworks show was made by city staff, not by the City Council or mayor. He said this year’s poor performance by a private contractor does not mean the city will revert to conducting the fireworks next year.
“The governing body will be looking over to make sure we can always improve on our event,” Grant said. “There might be a little bit more oversight. And obviously we can learn from a couple of the mishaps from this year’s event and improve on it.”
Mayor Dennis Kintigh said Wednesday he, too, was disenchanted with the fireworks show.
“I shared with senior staff disappointment that it wasn’t excellent, and I am if the opinion that we should strive to have excellence in all we do,” Kintigh said. “The gaps, the music didn’t really work with the gaps.
“We, the city, need to do a better job.”
The mayor said the fireworks job was given to a contractor to save the city money.
“The effort here was to try to reduce Fire Department overtime, save some money, which is a noble and appropriate thing to do, ” Kintigh said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out — this time, it apparently didn’t. That doesn’t mean that we can’t do it again, but maybe we go back to what we had been doing before.”
The mayor said Tuesday’s performance by Precision Fireworks did not necessarily mean the firm would not be used again by the city.
“Let’s look into this a little further before we rush to decisions on what we want to do next year,” he said. “Let’s bring in the Fire Department, who is a key part of this component. Let’s review the whole thing and then we’ll male a decision probably in the next 60 days or so.”
Kintigh said the decision should be made by city staff, not city elected officials.
“The city manager needs to make these kinds of calls,” Kintigh said. “The City Council doesn’t need to be involved in micro-managing. I think the City Council should be made aware of what’s going on.
“It’s a staff decision, a city manager decision.”
The mayor said the Los Lonely Boys concert was a high point of the day’s events at the recreation area.
“The contrast is more glaring,” he said. “I can’t imagine how many people were there.
“There were a lot of people who were nearby that could hear it that weren’t right there in front of it.
“We’ll do better next year — we will do better next year.”
Interim editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.