Steamboat ends annual July 4th fireworks display

Fireworks burst over Howelsen Hill during Fourth of July in Steamboat Springs. (File Photo)

Steamboat Springs is ending its longstanding tradition of hosting a Fourth of July fireworks display at Howelsen Hill for the foreseeable future.

Following the recommendation of city staff and Steamboat Springs Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli, Steamboat Springs City Council voted Tuesday evening to no longer hold or budget for the Fourth of July fireworks celebration, which was canceled due to fire safety concerns in four of the past five years. The city had budgeted a little over $63,000 for fireworks in 2019

“Hopefully, you all know by now that this is going to be a very dry year, and that will be a strain on small fire departments like ours,” Cerasoli told council. “The precedent of large complex fires is extremely concerning to us.”

While the decision was primarily due to continued fire danger, council members also chose to end the fireworks as the city’s longtime fireworks expert Tim Borden has opted to retire.

Borden, who grew the show from one site on Howelsen to a total of five different launch sites, with more than 1,000 individual fireworks, said he endorses the city’s decision to end the summer shows on Howelsen. He believes the wildfire danger outweighs the community entertainment.

“This is a very dangerous situation with the dry conditions to launch these fireworks on Howelsen Hill,” Borden said. “Our fire department is already strained having to put fires out all over town, because of all the unauthorized fireworks going on.”

The city opted to donate its remaining fireworks supply to the Steamboat Lake Snow Club’s Fourth of July fireworks display and Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club for use at Winter Carnival. Borden said fireworks are safer at those events, because sparks and debris don’t pose a threat over water or snow.

“Until these weather conditions change dramatically, I think it’s prudent to go in the direction that staff suggested,” Borden said.

If drought conditions ease in the future, council said it would revisit the idea of a summer fireworks show at Howelsen. Though most believed drought will persist into the future, and event planning should take a back seat to more pressing fiscal issues.

“I think we should focus on our higher priorities, and I’m not sure event management or event production is one of them,” council member Sonja Macys said.

Other council members acknowledged the sentimental value behind Fourth of July fireworks and hoped the Steamboat Lake show will serve as an adequate replacement.

“One of the highlights of growing up in Steamboat was watching the fireworks show,” council member Lisel Petis said. “Your head plays with your heart, and the head has to win on this one.”

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