RALEIGH — The citys first downtown Fourth of July fireworks show might have been a bust for some, but the event was a boom for the municipal parking fund.
Officials said the city pulled in $25,805 from its downtown decks on the holiday $10,000 more than event organizers spent on the widely panned, low-flying pyrotechnics show. The citys parking decks were open for a flat rate of $5 from 1 p.m. to midnight. Crowd estimates for the daylong event ranged from 50,000 to 75,000.
Charlie Johnson, a chief deputy fire marshal in Wake County, said this week that he expected more fireworks about the fireworks. Many people who had expected to see blooms of color and light explode over the citys downtown rooftops were treated instead to a more down-to-Earth show.
Event organizers, who moved the show from the expansive N.C. State Fairgrounds on the western edge of the city to the heart of downtown, were limited by stricter fire safety codes governing the urban site. For every inch of firework mortar shell, national safety standards recommend a distance of at least 70 feet from the closest building. Because the buildings were within 210 feet, or 70 yards from the fireworks ignition site, the highest-powered shells could only be three inches in diameter, Johnson said.
At that size, the snap, crackle and pop typically is 360 feet off the ground. And Raleighs tallest downtown building, the PNC Plaza, with its 32 floors and its distinctive spire, towers above that at 538 feet.
Johnson said the city could shoot fireworks from a downtown roof top if it did not have a flammable surface.
But then, Johnson said, event organizers would probably have to use indoor fireworks such as those used at concerts. That might produce their oohs and ahhs from higher in the air because they were shot off a roof, but they would not have the same booms and power that a ground show might.
City Manager Russell Allen said department heads and others involved in the planning of the downtown event would do a full critique of what worked and what didnt work as they look to next year.
Though the citys move to downtown came with The Works, a daylong street festival that won rave reviews, they acknowledged there was room for improvement in the evening festivities.
The fireworks show, city officials say, was similar to the one that crowds gather for on New Years Eve. But officials acknowledged that crowds gathering for fireworks on the Fourth of July were likely to be interested in more dazzling pyrotechnics than the smaller crowds who come on New Years Eve primarily for music, shows in various venues and to watch the acorn drop.
Johnson said he cringed when he read comments from Roger Krupa, the Raleigh Convention Center director, saying he wondered whether next years Fourth of July festivities might include a creative interpretation of downtown fire codes.
The safety rules, Johnson said, are national standards, not city rules governing downtown.
One thing Johnson advocated if the city is intent on proceeding with a show that offers a bigger boom was consideration of a location close to the downtown, but not so restricted by surrounding buildings.