Powderhorn Park won’t have fireworks at its July 4th celebration this year, ending for now a key feature of one of the oldest community events in Minnesota.
Its Neighborhood Association voted to suspend the fireworks because Minneapolis Park Police had said it couldn’t adequately patrol both the Powderhorn event and the much larger Red, White and Boom! show along the downtown riverfront.
About 20,000 people attended last year’s Powderhorn Park event, which was marred by fights and a food truck robbery. Fireworks were stopped several times when spectators broke through safety fences. The downtown fireworks attracted about 100,000 people, but fewer 911 calls, said Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board police Chief Jason Ohotto.
The park board had offered to reschedule the riverfront event this year, moving it to July 5 (a Saturday), and allow Powderhorn to have fireworks on July 4th by itself. But Vienna Rothberg, chairwoman of the Powderhorn neighborhood group’s board, said being the only option in town on July 4th might have presented even bigger and more expensive problems for the park and the neighborhood.
Powderhorn will instead have a daytime-only event this coming July 4th, featuring food and entertainment. The board voted down an option to schedule a celebration and evening fireworks on July 5.
In line with the mission?
The decision-making process, which followed several months of community meetings and a survey, was "transparent and incredibly arduous," said Christina Nicholson, treasurer for the neighborhood group’s board. Some residents felt strongly about keeping the fireworks tradition alive, while others raised concerns about safety both at the event and throughout the neighborhood.
The daylong celebration followed by fireworks may also have simply gotten too big, Rothberg said. Fundraising to cover costs had become a difficult distraction from the neighborhood group’s basic community work, including economic development and arts and diversity initiatives.
"Every dollar we spend on blowing things up is a dollar we’re not spending knocking on doors or helping somebody fill in a grant application," she said.
The fireworks themselves cost $5,000 last year. Becky Timm, the Powderhorn Park group’s executive director, said it was also getting difficult to find fireworks producers to stage an event in Powderhorn, since they could make more money at bigger venues elsewhere.
Powderhorn Park, slightly more than 3 miles due south of downtown Minneapolis, is the city’s largest neighborhood park, covering about 14 city blocks and featuring a lake. Its board said it could bring fireworks back in future years, but will look at a range of activities to offer.
"This first year it's going to be small and bumpy and weird," Nicholson said. "But going forward it could be something exceptionally cool."
Ohotto said he was glad the neighborhood took the safety concerns seriously and came up with an alternative.
"We’ll do everything possible to make it successful," he said.