A Sequester Fizzle for Military Fireworks This Fourth of July

Several military bases have canceled their firework celebrations this Fourth of July due to sequestration.

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Shaun Heasley / REUTERS

Fireworks light up the sky over the Iwo Jima memorial marking the Fourth of July in Arlington, July 4, 2005.

The United States imported nearly $230 million of fireworks last year, and some of the largest producers have seen revenues increase by over ten percent this year. But in military bases across the country, there won’t be any snap, crackle, or pop. Congress, through sequestration, has taken away from the troops on Independence Day.

The sequester—designed to be terrible policy—meant $85 billion across-the-board cuts in March. While cities like Seattle have saved their Fourth of July celebrations through corporate backers and private interests, the military had little time to regroup and fundraise.

Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune Marines Corps Base, South Carolina’s Shaw Air Force Base, New Jersey’s Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island all had to cancel their firework displays this year. Texas’ Fort Hood managed to salvage its fireworks from dipping into profits earned from its recycling center.

Brandy Rhoad Stowe, wife of a master gunnery sergeant at Camp Lejeune told the AP, “I know fireworks might seem silly to other people. “But what is the Fourth of July without fireworks?”

Grace Hew Len, director of public affairs at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, said that their Fourth of July event has been a tradition for at least 25 years and attracts more than 13,000 people a year. They canceled their fireworks, saving $55,000, and will instead host a July 4 Beachfeast.

The cuts come at a time when the private sector is, well, blasting off. “We have turned down a number of displays for the 4th due to capacity constraints,” says Doug Taylor, president of Zambelli fireworks. But they have had “several” displays at military bases that have been cancelled due to the sequestration.

Phil Grucci, President and CEO of Grucci fireworks, told TIME that while usually his company does six or seven military shows, this year only Schofield Barracks in Oahu, Hawaii could manage to celebrate. “Schofield is probably going to have about 45,000 people there…The cost per person is relatively efficient.”

What’s ironic is that Congress in large part started the tradition of blowing up rockets on the Fourth. According to James Heintze, Librarian Emeritus at American University, John Adams and other representatives in Congress set up a 13-rocket show in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777. “That was a time in the [Revolutionary] War when things weren’t going well,” says Heintze. “It was a morale builder.”

Cowpens National Battlefield, a Revolutionary War battle site in South Carolina, has been a Zambelli customer in the past. But according to John Slaughter, superintendent of Cowpens, sequestration cut $42,000, or 5 percent, of their budget this year. They cut $31,000 by canceling their July 4 event. “There’s certainly some disappointment in the community,” says Slaughter. Four to six thousand people show up to their event every year. The hope lies in next year.

“Even though sequestration certainly has affects that are disappointing across the federal government, the bright side is that it is bringing out the best in a number of those folks who are want to help us through philanthropy,” says Slaughter. The park has developed a “friends group” to donate funds for fireworks next year. “If there is an uptick to it, that’s it. More people are coming out to say, ‘Hey, what can we do to help conserve and preserve the programs and the ability to access our national parks? It’s that important to us.’”

15 comments
CynthiaDeLuca
CynthiaDeLuca

From Hawaii too bad for us Obama drags his whole family on a $64,000,000.00 pleasure trip to Africa using our money but we are have to sacrifice much including 4th of July to support his pleasue trips. What was that "let them eat-cake" not my preisdent is he yours?

paulejb
paulejb

Happy 4th, everyone! Especially for the people who make it possible, the armed forces of the United States.

paulejb
paulejb

Barack Obama's $100,000,000 Africa vacation has drained Uncle Sucker's purse for such things as July 4th fireworks.

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

"Texas’ Fort Hood managed to salvage its fireworks from dipping into profits earned from its recycling center."

Tip of the hat to Fort Hood.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@CynthiaDeLuca Pleasure trip? You do realize that Africa has 7 of the 10 fastest growing economies in the world. China has been spending billions to cultivate these markets, it is way overdue for us to recognize their market potential as well.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

Right, most Democrats feel it was wrong to lie to the American people to attack a nation that didn't attack us on 9-11 and end up with over 3,000 dead Americans and countless more thousands of Iraq citizens or to violate the law to provide arms to the rebel Contras against the wishes of Congress. Democrats know that America has done things wrong but Republicans just strut around in their flight suits acting like the peacocks of the world while wasting trillions of dollars down a rathole.  That's a  good enough reason when we see the current House still acting like they don't give a damn about the America people but just their right-wing philosophy of soak everyone to make sure the rich can afford another house and pay no taxes.  Democrats aren't proud of being 37th in the world in healthcare outcomes which seems to okay with the GOTP.

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

No, the agreement was to cut equally across every line in every department (as you well know but continue to lie about) exceopt when air travelers feel inconvenienced.  Allow the other departments to move money around like TSA and you may have had some fireworkd if they could afford them with the House cuts.  The House could write a bill and make a change but declined.  So blame it on the House of Idiots.

gysgt213
gysgt213

@paulejb After reading your posts, I thought they made fireworks possible. My bad. Please proceed.

roknsteve
roknsteve

@paulejb Nobody has attacked this country except Saudi Arabia on 9/11 moron. 

SpikeLee
SpikeLee

Racist white people have a cartoon image of Africa.