Council de-funds fireworks for next year

Town commits to help fund a new experience in Mammoth in 2014

The Fourth of July fireworks show at Crowley Lake, one of Mammoth’s iconic summer mainstay events, will officially take its place on the Endangered Species List after this weekend.

The Mammoth Lakes Town Council made sure of that on June 19, when it voted to denude the fireworks show at Crowley Lake of its funding, beginning next summer.

Rather, the council committed itself to helping fund a new, leaner Fourth of July experience in Mammoth, designed to keep people in town rather than send them away each July 4 mid-afternoon and evening.

In adopting the 2013-14 budget, the council stripped all but $10,000 from the $34,650 originally budgeted for the fireworks show at Crowley Lake.

“We do not have an exact plan for how that $10,000 would be spent,”
said Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez. “Conceptually, the plan is to spend it in town as opposed to Crowley Lake.”

Pressed on the budget reduction, Marysheva-Martinez said it made economic sense.

“A lot of businesses close on the Fourth of July because no one’s here, and that’s just not acceptable,” she said. “People need to be here.  In addition, we need to be more strategic as to how we spend our resources, and spend them as seed money.”

Nothing, however, is etched in stone, she said.

“The plan is yet to be determined,” she said.

“I am confident we can do something with $10,000, whether it’s still doing the fireworks or something else, but my priority and preference would be to do something in town.

“We’re working with key people. I already met with [Tourism Director] John Urdi and [Chamber of Commerce President] Jack Copeland and we’re going to reach out to additional business people in the community and come up with a joint recommendation that we’ll take to the council.”

Tonight’s fireworks show at Crowley Lake thus might be the last one, at least as we know it, unless do-gooders gather up at least $25,000 for the annual, iconic show.

Such a strategy is not unprecedented.

Bridgeport, which draws nowhere near the attendance overall as does Mammoth on the Fourth of July, depends entirely on fund-raising for a fireworks extravaganza that many claim is bigger and better than anything Mammoth has ever produced.

The Town Council’s action in de-funding the fireworks show came within the context of a major re-shifting of budget priorities when the town’s finance staff discovered a $371,000 shortfall.

By further cutting into a number of department budgets (public works and police, for example), the council found itself still shy of balancing the books.

By wiping out the funding for the fireworks show, the town saved a total of $24,650 from the $34,650 in the baseline budget.

“The idea is that we would build on Village events and other events,” Marysheva-Martinez said, “and we’d have a multi-day event here in town that would appeal to visitors.

“We’ll have specifics on that plan in the next few months.”