Peachtree City’s signature event, the Fourth of July fireworks show, may not happen this year as the ongoing dredging of Lake Peachtree is disrupting Drake Field, where the fireworks are typically launched.
The county’s dredging of the lake was tentatively scheduled to be finished by mid-June, but delays due to rain and other factors seem to have pushed that timeline back.
Cajen Rhodes, Director of Recreation and Special Events, told city council on Thursday that he did not think it was very likely the dredging could be completed and the area cleaned up and restored adequately in time for July 4. The dredging has required construction of an access road through the area that is central to the July 4th festivities, and that will have to be cleaned up and repaired after all dredging activities are concluded.
“Even if they finish mid-June, they have to fix the roads and clean up. I just can’t stand before you and say it’s going to be realistic that we can do something by July 4,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes said the annual fireworks show is a large and expensive event for the city and he would not want to see resources wasted on an event that may have to be cancelled. As an alternative, he said his department was considering pushing the fireworks show to Labor Day on September 7, hoping that the dredging would be done and the area cleaned up by that time.
“There’s a lot of planning that goes into this so we definitely don’t want to waste our resources or our time for something we have to cancel,” Rhodes told council.
Rhodes said his department would probably have to make a decision by the end of this month, and he hoped the county could offer a realistic timeline for when dredging will conclude to help inform that decision.
“The festival we did last year was a super success and I do not want to go backwards. I want it to be just as good this year,” Rhodes said.
He noted that the department had considered alternative locations for the fireworks to launch from, but noted that the current location is known to residents and well suited for people to view the fireworks from a lot of different locations.
“The important part about the fireworks are the residents you don’t see [right by the lake],” Rhodes said. “They’re in places we don’t even know to view these fireworks. You have to keep that as a consideration.”
Labor Day is already the typical “makeup” weekend for the annual fireworks show, according to Peachtree City Public Information Officer Betsy Tyler. She said the fireworks were moved to Labor Day weekend in 1994 when tropical storm Alberto caused the cancellation of the July 4 show.
Tyler said the fireworks contract itself is for around $26,000 but that most of the expense for the show and festival comes from staff time as it is dedicated to obtaining sponsorships and organizing the event. She noted the Peachtree City Convention and Visitors Bureau is involved with this.
She also noted that staff had looked at alternate locations in the past, including the Peachtree City Athletic Complex, but those alternatives presented their own challenges. She said the Lake Peachtree location has proved to be ideal for accessibility and to provide a wide range of visibility.
As a silver lining, Georgia residents may want to do their own fireworks celebrations this year as the state legislature voted Thursday night to legalize fireworks in the state. Assuming Governor Deal signs off on the new law, Georgians will no longer have to make for the Alabama border to smuggle in fireworks.
The law states fireworks can be set off any day between 10 a.m. and midnight with the exceptions of January 1, July 3, July 4, and December 31 when the hours are extended from midnight to 2 a.m.