RALEIGH — The citys first downtown Fourth of July fireworks show had barely ended before the real fireworks began.
Tens of thousands of people had flocked downtown, hoping for a spectacular display of high-flying color, sparkle and streaming light to cap off Independence Day celebrations.
Instead, Twitter feeds and Facebook walls crackled and popped late Wednesday and Thursday with critiques of a new show that for many had as much fizzle as sizzle. Brent Woodcox tweeted on Thursday: Things with a higher approval rating than last nights fireworks in Raleigh: Adam Sandlers last five movies, Congress, terrorism.
Raleigh: if youre gonna have fireworks in downtown, at least make them higher than ... tall buildings, Justin Miller @ImJustinMiller tweeted.
The criticism came after Raleigh decided to move its fireworks show from the expansive N.C. State Fairgrounds on the western edge of the city to the heart of downtown.
With the move came The Works, a new downtown festival that offered music, gouge wrestling, beer and wine gardens, water games, stunt shows, eating contests and childrens games. Vendors offered a wide sampling of foods.
The daytime events won rave reviews, and then nightfall was supposed to offer even more. But event organizers cut the fireworks budget from last years $24,000 to $15,000, a reduction that also shrank the show.
In addition, Wake County fire codes restrict how high fireworks can be shot in downtown, a limit lower than at the fairgrounds.
Some downtown visitors had set up lawn chairs and tailgate picnics on top of parking decks hoping to see fireworks above the rooftops.
Others had staked out high grounds of Raleigh at Boylan Bridge, on a rise at the Lonnie Poole golf course at the N.C. State University Centennial Campus and Dix Hill on the Dorothea Dix Hospital campus.
But they missed the show.
The view corridor certainly was intended to be Fayetteville Street, said City Manager Russell Allen. It certainly was geared for those observing from there.
Roger Krupa, the Raleigh Convention Center director, said the crowd for the citys downtown Independence Day show swelled beyond expectations.
It also was a different kind of crowd from the ones drawn to the New Years Eve celebration and other street festivals that planners modeled The Works after.
Additionally, Krupa said, the 2012 fireworks budget was cut.
Since fire codes for the downtown district prohibited high-fliers, Krupa said event organizers decided to buy a 27-minute show from S&W Productions, a Wake Forest company. They then put the money that would have gone to more high-flying pyrotechnics into street performers, such as fire-handlers and jugglers.
Though Krupa and Allen received many plaudits about the daytime festivities, they also are keenly aware of the criticisms of the fireworks show.
They said they and other city planners would analyze what worked and what didnt.
Though they hope to continue the new downtown tradition, Krupa said some changes might be in order for the coming year.
We now know we can get more people downtown, Krupa said. We might have to go off Fayetteville Street.
It was so enjoyable downtown, Krupa added. There were people in the restaurants; there were people in the bars. There were people at picnic tables. There was every walk of life in our streets.
Krupa hopes to meet with county fire officials and talk about several possibilities, including doing several fireworks shows in the amphitheater or even finding a way around the height and distance regulations that kept Raleighs show on Wednesday down to earth.
Maybe some creative interpretation of the law might help us, Krupa said. We have a year to work on it.