After logistical problems forced the cancellation of the Fourth of July fireworks show in Crozet Park in 2022, the event will be back in full force this year on Saturday, July 1. Mark your calendars, as this year’s show will be both higher and bigger than before, according to Tim Tolson, member of the Crozet Independence Day Committee as well as president of the Crozet Community Association. The committee is a small group of local citizens who have organized and largely funded the fireworks for decades, but this year they will be reaching out to the community for help.
Please visit the Crozet Board of Trade’s GoFundMe fundraiser at www.gofundme.com/f/2023-crozet-independence-day-fireworks, to help keep our Independence Day tradition going strong. The organizers need to raise $20,000 for this year’s event.
To try to nail down a show provider who could work within the shrinking available open space in the park, Tolson began reaching out to contractors last fall. “I spent the last several months trying to get hold of both fireworks and drone companies,” he said. Gaining in popularity in recent years, drone shows deploy hundreds of mini-drones into the sky that can change color and form objects and messages. “Drone shows don’t have the same [debris field] restrictions that fireworks do, so we thought that might be possible in the park. But the quote we received was for a 15-minute show with 100 drones for $40,000.”
County code requires that for every 100 feet the fireworks go up, there must be a 100-foot circumference of clear ground space below for a debris field where fallout such as spent card casings, soot, embers, rocket sticks, and duds can fall safely. For this reason, the recent construction of new homes just outside the Crozet Park baseball field fence near the dog park has closed off the park as a viable launch site.
Tolson persevered, and a deal was eventually struck with Dominion Fireworks, based outside of Fredericksburg. For 2023, Dominion will be staging and launching the show from the former Barnes Lumber property, courtesy of owner/developer Frank Stoner, to provide plenty of safe space and still allow the fireworks to be close to park attendees. Park-goers will simply look about 90 degrees to the left of the direction they usually view the show.
A few obstacles remain, chiefly financial, as the committee has scraped together enough funding for the down payment but not for the full cost of the event. “The show will cost more than double what we used to pay,” said Tolson. “All of the fireworks come from China, and there are still lingering supply issues as well as increased demand these days, so prices are high.”
A Beloved Community Event
“When it started, the Independence Day celebration used to be a fundraiser for the fire department, and they ran the whole things for many years,” said Tolson. “But as they became more and more busy with calls, and being [then] an all-volunteer force, about a decade ago they said they really couldn’t run the event anymore.” So the Crozet Community Association, the Lions Club, the Crozet Board of Trade and others took over planning the park event while the fire department still arranges the parade.
The fireworks display has historically been financed by Crozet donors, and the money made from ticket sales and food and beer concessions allowed the committee to pay the expenses of the show and to donate the proceeds to Crozet’s fire department and rescue squad. The Derecho in 2012 upended that system. “We lost money hand over fist that year,” said Tolson. “We had already rented everything—bounce houses, port-a-potties, sound system—and the storm hit the day before the event and canceled it. We didn’t walk away [financially] unscathed from that.”
The committee pivoted to “paying forward,” trying to bank enough funds to cover the current year’s event and earn enough to save for next year. “That’s what we were able to do until last year, when we lost money,” said Tolson. Fewer people came to the park celebration in 2022 because there were no fireworks planned.
As Crozet continues to grow and development fills in its open spaces, finding an appropriate and available space for the fireworks display will become increasingly difficult. The Barnes Lumber property will likely be under construction with road improvements and the beginnings of the much-anticipated Crozet Plaza by next year, leaving the fireworks event without a home.
Now, however, a long-standing Crozet family has suggested a solution. The Kings, of King Family Vineyards, stepped forward to offer their property for next year’s Fourth of July post-parade celebration, inviting the community to celebrate there as they always have at the park with bands and food, even procuring a permit to serve both beer and wine.
“Where there was really a void, the Kings jumped in and are helping us keep this tradition going,” said Tolson. After holding a memorial event in which patriarch David King’s ashes were launched, fireworks-style, over the bucolic land that he’d worked and loved for so long, the family realized that their farm could accommodate the Independence Day event. Tolson is intrigued by the wide-open space available at the winery. “We would actually have a 500-foot radius at the Vineyard, which means we could have bigger [firework] shells go up 500 feet in the sky,”—twice and big and twice as high as previous shows.
James King described his family’s sense of devotion to Crozet’s community and traditions. “When we read the article titled “Crozet Fireworks on the Ropes” in last October’s Crozet Gazette, we were concerned that Crozet was going to lose one of its only community traditions,” said King. “However, we were hopeful when the article mentioned that next year’s fireworks could potentially take place on a larger, private piece of property, so we reached out to Tim Tolson to see if we could potentially be a good fit for the event.
“The fireworks display and the parade that precedes it are the only events during the year during which all members of the Crozet community can gather in one place together as a community,” he said. “It is a wonderful event that brings people together, both young and old alike and most importantly, it is an opportunity for people that have lived in Crozet for their entire lives and those who may have just moved to the area to share a common space and make memories together. It helps blend and bind us with one another as Crozetians.
“In a day and age when there is so much division, it truly is a special time, albeit brief, when we can come together to celebrate the things that we have in common. We love the place that we live, work and play. We all love Crozet, the place we call home. We wanted to help to ensure that this wonderful community tradition that celebrates the birthday of our nation has a vibrant future so we can continue to come together to celebrate for many years to come.”
Please help continue the Crozet Independence Day tradition by contributing to the Crozet Board of Trade’s GoFundMe at www.gofund.me/56597ad9.