Decision on fireworks show soon, June 10, 2020

Big Bear Lake's annual Fourth of July fireworks display is a big draw for tourists.

Big Bear is one meeting away from a decision on the July 4 fireworks. No date has been set, but a special meeting is planned to give a thumbs up or down to the fireworks show taking place on July 4. At that same meeting, the council will discuss closing the Village L to motorized traffic to allow for more physical distancing.

During the June 8 City Council meeting, city manager Frank Rush said one of the outstanding issues remaining as the city re-opens is the fireworks show. A decision needs to be made within a week or two, but he has been waiting until the last possible moment on major decisions regarding COVID-19 due to the ever-changing landscape, Rush said. There are still restrictions on mass gatherings but there are gray areas in interpretation, he said.

San Bernardino County is promoting drive-thru fireworks shows where people watch from their vehicles. Other communities are moving forward with fireworks displays, including Apple Valley. That community canceled its Freedom Festival and Sunset Concert Series, but will hold the fireworks show at a park. The park is fenced and gated and will be closed to spectators. Residents are asked to view the show from their homes or from vehicles in an open space.

The Big Bear fireworks display is traditionally shot from a barge on the water of Big Bear Lake. Big Bear Lake Rotary Club has canceled its annual barbecue on July 4, but club members do volunteer to help with the show. The club needs time to organize the volunteers, said Dave Caretto, councilman. The pyrotechnic firm uses someone from Japan to operate the Big Bear show. Rush said there are others who can take charge from the company.

Caretto said he is worried about Big Bear parks on July 4, which are traditionally packed with spectators watching the display. Social distancing would not take place, he said.

Councilman Randy Putz said he is mindful of the impact the decision has on others, but he doesn’t believe the July 4 fireworks show is needed to bring people to Big Bear. People are already visiting the community, eager to get away from the city and escape from the months-long stay-at-home order. The fireworks show is more for the mental health of the community, Putz said.

Putz said if there is no fireworks show, people may be more inclined to use personal fireworks, which are prohibited anywhere in the San Bernardino National Forest area, including urban areas. The

July 4 holiday is always busy in Big Bear, and this year the holiday is on a Saturday. With large gatherings prohibited and no barbecue, Putz questioned how to manage the increase in population. If everyone has to stay in their cars to watch the show, where do the cars go? Putz asked.

Mayor Rick Herrick said the barge should be placed farther out in the lake than usual so the show can be seen from more locations in the Valley, even with people in their vehicles.

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