For the first time in over three decades, fireworks will not light up the sky above the Northern Virginia 4-H in Front Royal on Independence Day.
The organization recently announced via a Facebook post that its annual July Fourth celebration and all associated events are canceled. That post states the decision was “based on competing financial priorities associated with our primary camping and conferencing missions.”
Mayle Armstrong, the 4-H interim center director, said the reason for the cancellation is that “things cost more than they used to.” She insisted that 4-H is not having dire financial problems and that the center “is not about to close the doors.”
“It just wasn’t in our budget,” she said.
She said the fireworks alone would cost $6,000 and that would just be the “starting point.” Other costs, she said, would include food trucks, parking and having enough staff on hand. She did not know the exact figure that would have been required for the entire event.
Armstrong said the 4-H always collects donations at each firework show to fund the next year’s show. In 2016, she said just $600 was collected and she was not sure how much was obtained last year.
The 4-H requested $2,500 from both the town and county to help fund the event. A majority of the Town Council in a recent work session indicated opposition to providing the money, and the event was canceled before the matter came back to the table. The Board of Supervisors, meanwhile, never discussed the request in a meeting.
Had the 4-H been granted those donations, Armstrong said, the event “quite possibly” could have been held.
She also noted that while the 4-H is not suffering from extreme financial difficulties, the organization is “looking to find new ways to raise money, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“We realize it’s a disappointment,”she said, adding that the organization is hoping to raise money and reinstate the show next year.
Tobin Smith, the 4-H board of directors president, stated in the Facebook post that the organization is grateful for the community’s support.
“We look forward to future Independence Day celebrations with our neighbors,” he said.
This year’s lack of a local Independence Day fireworks show came up at the Town Council’s Monday meeting when Steven Schlesinger suggested in the public comment portion that the town fill the void.
“This community needs some sort of Fourth of July. I don’t expect this year because obviously, that is not going to happen,” he said.
He suggested the town could host a “one-day revenue generator” at Bing Crosby Stadium next year. He noted there is plenty of public parking and space for citizens to sit and watch fireworks. He added that residents who could not previously drive to the 4-H Center would be able to walk to such an event.
“If it’s a money issue that you guys are having, then I think with my company that maybe we could put something together next year … so that way the community would have a decent Fourth of July,” he said.