Can Big Bear's fireworks show be saved? March 25, 2020

Fireworks fill the sky over Big Bear Lake during the annual Fourth of July fireworks display.

With so much unknown in terms of the new coronavirus and when the crisis might end, Big Bear’s events planned for the spring and summer are being canceled or postponed. The annual July 4 fireworks show is in limbo.

Known as one of the top five shows in Southern California, Big Bear’s

July 4 fireworks on the lake draws hundreds of thousands of people to watch the show every summer. July 4 is the No. 1 day in terms of tourism in Big Bear, according to Visit Big Bear.

With COVID-19 sweeping the world, the state order to stay at home and Big Bear’s businesses virtually dark for the foreseeable future, July 4 seems like a big maybe. Ellen Clarke, executive director for the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce, said she is concerned about raising the necessary funds for the annual fireworks show. The Chamber leads the fundraising efforts for the Big Bear Lake Rotary, which hosts the show. The price tag is just under $90,000.

Clarke said Big Bear’s businesses usually donate most of the money to the fireworks fund. But with so many businesses closed or significantly reduced due to COVID-19 and the governor’s order to stay at home, those businesses aren’t in a position to donate, Clarke said.

Michael Perry, who will be the interim CEO for Visit Big Bear beginning March 30, said he is hopeful the Valley is on the mend by July 4 and that the summer season will be busy in Big Bear. But he is skeptical. There is no way right now that Big Bear’s businesses can be asked to contribute to the fireworks, Perry said.

The Big Bear Lake City Council heard a report from City Manager Frank Rush regarding the fireworks at a special meeting March 23. Rush told the council that the first scheduled payment of $37,500 for the fireworks show is due April 3. Rush said it will be challenging, if not impossible, for the fundraising efforts.

The city of Big Bear Lake contributes to the fireworks show funding.

However, Rush said, if the community, and the rest of the country and world, can get through this, the July 4 fireworks could be a really great event to host to celebrate the end.

Councilman Randy Putz said it’s trying to predict the future as to whether the Valley will be back up and running by July 4.

Waiting until the very last minute to make the payment is favored by councilmen Dave Caretto and Bob Jackowski. Councilman Bill Jahn said it’s too early to make the decision regarding the payment. While $37,500 may not seem like a huge amount, which is nonrefundable, it’s taxpayer money and the city needs to be careful with how the money is spent, Jahn said.

Rush said the city could end up footing the entire bill if fundraising isn’t successful or the show is canceled.

Mayor Rick Herrick, who is suffering from COVID-19 as the only reported case in Big Bear, said the community shouldn’t plan major events at this time. Herrick said he feels we are still several weeks from the time when the curve of COVID-19 begins to flatten. As the number of cases go up, planning events would send the wrong message, Herrick said.

Herrick, thanking his colleagues for the well wishes for his recovery, said the coronavirus needs to be taken seriously. Even if someone has mild symptoms, take it seriously and self-isolate so the virus doesn’t spread and tax our local hospital, Herrick said.

All council members took part in the meeting via teleconference.

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