Graham Kilmer
MKE County

July 3rd Fireworks Canceled

Without a sponsor, annual event is called off by Milwaukee County.

By - May 24th, 2024 04:30 pm
Fireworks. (Pixabay).

Fireworks. (Pixabay).

Milwaukee County Parks will not hold the annual July 3 fireworks as the event is without a sponsor.

The annual event costs approximately $370,000, with $350,000 going directly toward fireworks. Last year the event was sponsored by American Family Insurance, J&M Displays, the Milwaukee Parks Foundation and T&M Partners.

“We recognize the disappointment that this news may bring,” Milwaukee County Parks Director Guy Smith said in a statement. “However, our commitment to providing vibrant and accessible recreational spaces remains unwavering. We are grateful for the years of generous support from sponsors that have allowed us to create lasting memories, and we express our gratitude to the community for their continued understanding and support.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a seasonal worker shortage, Parks previously called off the event in 2020 and 2021. The event returned in 2022. But even before the pandemic, it had encountered turbulence. Longtime sponsor U.S. Bank pulled out in advance of the 2019 show, with American Family, the Milwaukee Brewers and T&M, a holding company controlled by Ted Kellner, stepping forward to keep the show going.

The fireworks regularly draw as many as 100,000 people to the lakefront, with many congregating in Veterans Park the whole day. In the past, many residents of suburban communities would bring tents and camp overnight in county parks along the lakefront.

The department said it has found a silver lining in canceling the fireworks, explaining that it can focus its staff and resources on other events happening in parks. The department is encouraging residents to participate in July 4 fireworks and holiday celebrations (listed below) being held in their local parks.

“Despite the disappointment, we believe this opportunity better aligns with our mission to maintain welcoming spaces for everyone to gather and enjoy the outdoors,” Parks said in a statement. “We will continue to support our neighborhood 4th of July celebrations.”

In a press conference Friday afternoon, Smith explained that the rising cost of the fireworks show was limiting the appetite of potential sponsors and the parks department.

“At this point, we believe the 3rd of July fireworks have run their course,” Smith said in a press conference Friday afternoon.

After years of diminishing budgets for the parks system, the department faces a massive backlog of maintenance and infrastructure needs. The department wants to focus its resources on park amenities like pools, playgrounds and trails — as opposed to a fireworks display. Discussions around ending the annual event began as far back as 2017, after a longtime sponsor dropped out, Smith said.

In 2023, the show was reduced from 40 minutes to 30 minutes in response to the cost increases. Even with sponsorship, the department has had to subsidize part of the cost of the fireworks show each year. Jeff Orlowski, director of recreation and business services, said that the department never makes enough money back through parking or other event fees to cover the cost of the fireworks.

Local July 4 Celebrations

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Categories: Events, MKE County, Parks

One thought on “MKE County: July 3rd Fireworks Canceled”

  1. Colin says:

    Expensive, disruptive to wildlife, as well as to pets and PTSD victims.
    Look forward to the day of firework shows being a thing of the past.

    Now if only buying fireworks was illegal or harder as well… ridiculous that any joe blow can buy a pile of them from Menards and then blow them up in the street, causing quite a disruption and even potential property damage and injury to folks.

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