Will there be a Fourth of July fireworks show in Mount Shasta in 2021?
Each year on the Fourth of July, Mount Shasta citizens and thousands of visitors flock to Lake Siskiyou to see the traditional fireworks show over the water. Last year, COVID-19 put a stop to the show, and this year's event is also up in the air (pun intended).
The Mount Shasta Community Fireworks committee is working to make a show possible, but if it happens, there will be some big changes, said pyrotechnic operator Tom Haistings. Most notably, the show will likely be moved to Shastice Park.
Here are five things you should know about the effort to preserve Mount Shasta's beloved Independence Day fireworks tradition.
"'If' is the big word here"
Planning a large-scale event like the fireworks show is a daunting task in a normal year, but doing it during the pandemic, when there are so many unknowns, is a special challenge, said Haistings, who has been involved with the show for 20 years and serves as president of the fireworks committee.
"'If' is the big word here," he said. "If we are able to have a show, we will have a show. It depends on the state, and what they'll allow with COVID-19."
Mount Shasta Recreation and Parks District Administrator Shannon Shaw said her board voted unanimously at their March 10 meeting to allow the committee to move forward with plans to use Shastice Park for the fireworks celebration, pending necessary permits from the county and city.
All the county's regulations are based on California Department of Public Health guidelines, and currently, the state's reopening plan doesn't have a tier that allows big community gatherings, Haistings said. But he's hoping things will change before July 4 and planning for that eventuality.
In addition to COVID complications, fireworks shows are always dependent on the weather. The day of the event, if there are adverse conditions, the show is canceled.
"We can have the best laid plans, but if the fire danger is too high, or there aren't enough fire personnel on hand, we aren't going to get the go-ahead to do it," said Haistings.
The show won't be over Lake Siskiyou
There are several reasons why the traditional show over Lake Siskiyou isn't feasible in 2021, Haistings explained.
First, the Mount Shasta Resort was hit hard by the pandemic and doesn't have the staff to host its Customer Appreciation Day, which usually attracts 3,000 to 4,000 people who spread out on its greens to watch the big show.
"Due to the economic impact of the pandemic, the resort just can't do it," Haistings said. "Otherwise, they'd be there for us ... and the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort is already always totally full," Haistings said. "They simply can't take any more."
Without the extra room at the resort, there wouldn't be enough space around the lake for people to watch – especially at an acceptable social distance. Haistings said there's simply not enough infrastructure to host 10,000 people on Lake Siskiyou's shores – a prospect that is already difficult in a normal year with parking problems and traffic jams that make getting back to Interstate 5 an hour-long ordeal.
Looking toward Shastice Park as their venue, the committee is tentatively considering allowing 25% of the parks' maximum capacity of 18,000 to enjoy the show from up close, which is in line with the attendance that will be allowed at Major League Baseball games this spring.
Overflow could watch from their backyards, Haistings said, as people did before the fireworks show was moved to Lake Siskiyou and it was fired from the big field behind Sisson School.
The show would be up close and personal
With the crowd closer, the crew would be able to use much smaller shells with a greater impact for spectators, Haistings said. The show would becoe a "skyconcert," choreographed with music and the opportunity to add theatrical lighting along with the fireworks.
"The show will feel bigger, because people will be so much closer," he said. Shooting over Lake Siskiyou became more difficult over the years as surrounding trees grew taller, necessitating larger caliber shells that shot higher in the air, so people at the Mount Shasta Resort could also enjoy the show.
"We wouldn't have that problem here," said Haistings.
Shooting over land is safe
Haistings said he has heard concerns that fireworks aren't safe, and that shooting over land is more dangerous than it is over Lake Siskiyou.
"We will only be using state approved professional fireworks discharged by licensed pyrotechnic operators," Haistings said. "The fallout zone will be over lawn that has sprinklers. Safety zones will be enforced – something that was difficult on the lake, with boats that we couldn't control."
Fire engines will be staged nearby for immediate response to any unforeseen issues, Haistings added.
"Our pyrotechnic crew has 20 years experience shooting fireworks at Lake Siskiyou with no fires," said Haistings. "Yes, there is a lake there, but that fallout zone includes timber and brush."
Haistings said there's a big difference between backyard fireworks and professional fireworks fired by a trained and experienced pyrotechnic crew. "We are held accountable for how we operate. We know what we have and we know what it's going to do."
Fundraising is happening now
After the MSRPD's approval to use the site, the fireworks committee is now working to formulate a COVID-19 compliance safety plan for the event, which would be approved by the county. Then they'll apply with the city for a special use permit.
Haistings said the committee still needs to raise $30,000 to make the 2021 show possible. There is no extra money in their coffers left over from last year, because they canceled the 2020 show early and didn't do any fundraising.
To donate to the show, go to https://mtshastafireworks.com. Mount Shasta Community Fireworks is a 501c4 non-profit corporation.
Skye Kinkade is the editor of the Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers and the Siskiyou Daily News. She is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and has lived in Mount Shasta and Weed her entire life.