For a third consecutive year, the July 4 fireworks will not be launched from the top of Mount Rubidoux in Riverside and it is unclear whether future shows will return to the mountain.
Riverside City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 8, approved a three-year, $225,675 deal that sets the stage for fireworks to be played at nearby Ryan Bonaminio Park on upcoming Independence Day – as has been done in 2021 – as well as at La Sierra Park on the west side of town.
The contract with Rialto’s Pyro Spectaculars, which delivered dozens of 4th of July shows at Riverside before the coronavirus pandemic, calls for additional aerial pyrotechnics at La Sierra in a bid to make up for the abrupt cancellation of the show’s performance. year in the west on the afternoon of the 4th of July which angered thousands of people who had gathered for the popular community event.
In addition to a base cost of $30,000 for the La Sierra Park show, the contract includes $5,000 for upgrades. Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Pamela Galera said the money would increase the number of fireworks catapulted into the air by 175 from the 2019 show.
“We are going to do a bit more and beyond this year for La Sierra because of the unfortunate incident that happened last year,” Galera said in an interview ahead of the meeting.
For the first time, the city will provide live music, food and vendors at both locations to promote a full day of festivities, Galera said.
The price for the Ryan Bonaminio Park show is $40,000, according to a city report.
Council members were all for doing something special at La Sierra, but expressed their angst during a more than two-hour discussion about hosting the central Riverside show at Ryan Bonaminio Park instead of Mount Rubidoux.
The council voted 5-2, with Ronaldo Fierro and Chuck Conder voting no, to hold the downtown show at the park this year but to keep the venue open for 2023 and 2024 – so long as the vendor agrees. City Attorney Phaedra Norton said officials would try to negotiate the change and, if they met resistance, would bring the contract back for follow-up discussion on Tuesday, February 15.
Fierro said he was born and raised in Riverside and seeing fireworks from Mount Rubidoux was an important tradition. He didn’t think Ryan Bonaminio Park had done well as a back-up last year and didn’t want to lock the park down as the location for the next three July 4 holidays.
“Frankly, it’s not a very good place to show fireworks,” Fierro said.
During a public comment period, six people called, all in favor of returning the show to Mont Rubidoux. They said launching fireworks from the top of the mountain is a tradition that should continue, that fewer people got to see the fireworks last year because they were fired from the park lower and terrible traffic around the park.
“I really think it’s important that the fireworks are seen by as many people as possible,” said Mike Gardner.
Steve Johnson, who runs the Facebook group “What’s Going On in Riverside County?”
Several people have commented by email. Donna Stephenson urged council to continue the tradition that Riverside is famous for.
However, fire chief Michael Moore urged not to bring the show back to the mountain, saying it is a fire-prone area that caught fire last July 4 holiday. Firefighters fear that in the event of an emergency requiring evacuation, a bushfire could create a “catastrophic” situation, he said.
“It just comes down to the fact that it’s dangerous to start a fire at the top of the hill,” Moore said.
Last year’s show was much safer, he said.
Galera added that the vendor, Pyro Spectaculars, told the city it would not be performing a show on the mountain due to the risk of fire and the challenge of transporting fireworks supplies and equipment over a narrow and steep road.
Erin Edwards, council member for Ward 1, which represents the city centre, said: “We have to listen when our supplier says it’s something they can’t do.
“I’m not happy, but I take public safety very seriously,” Edwards added.
The tradition of shooting fireworks from Mount Rubidoux began in the 1960s.
Pyro Spectaculars has performed numerous 4th of July shows for the city since 1996 and most recently provided pyrotechnics in 2019, Galera said.
In 2020, no shows were held during the holidays due to the pandemic.
The salesman Riverside hired for last year’s twin Independence Day fireworks canceled the La Sierra show hours before dark on July 4, sending shockwaves through the city. The city council voted 7-0 on Sept. 21 to terminate its $198,000, multi-year contract with Santa Monica-based company Exposhows.
“We knew pretty much on July 4 of last year that we were going to switch providers,” Fierro said Tuesday.