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Fourth of July fireworks canceled and delayed due to worker shortage

Fireworks like these may not be happening as often as they used to.
Dimitrios Kambouris
Getty Images
Fireworks like these may not be happening as often as they used to.

The Fourth of July is a holiday with a lot of sensory experiences.

For some, that means going for a swim at the beach or pool, hosting a barbecue and enjoying a burger, or perhaps, most importantly, sitting under the night sky and watching celebratory fireworks crackle and boom overhead.

This year's celebrations might look and sound a bit different for many Americans, though. That's because there's a nationwide shortage of pyrotechnicians, otherwise known as the people who are qualified to safely coordinate and oversee fireworks shows.

For some, that means rescheduling fireworks shows, something that had to be done in Ocean City and College Park, in Maryland.

For others, it means having to cancel the show entirely, which was the case at Lake Meredith, in Texas.

"Obviously July 4th is the number one major event of the year," said Cathy Salgado, the director of parks and recreation for the city of Fairfax, Virginia. "Everybody wants to do their fireworks show on July 4th."

She only found out a few weeks ago that her fireworks supplier wasn't able to secure a technician, and that they would have to cancel the fireworks show she had originally planned. Now, Fairfax's show is scheduled for July 5, instead.

Last year, Independence Day celebrations were trickling in. Now they're back in full swing.
Jon Cherry / Getty Images
Getty Images
Last year, Independence Day celebrations were trickling in. Now they're back in full swing.

The demand for licensed professionals on the Fourth of July is not anything new in the fireworks industry. But making a comeback after the pandemic has affected the ability to fulfill demand.

"The firework industry was completely crippled in 2020," said Julie Heckman, the American Pyrotechnic Association's executive director. Heckman said the industry lost 90% of their revenues.

Now, people are able to go out and celebrate once more, and as a result, the industry is beginning to bounce back.

But until capacity is back to normal, fans of those signature explosive lights may have to settle with some compromises until then, like shifted dates or fewer shows.

Salgado sees an opportunity in these growing pains. "I guess on the bright side, we're celebrating July fourth for two days," she said.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Taylor Hutchison
Kathryn Fox

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