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Riverside moves July 4th fireworks from Mount Rubidoux to downtown-area park

Riverside moves July 4th fireworks from Mount Rubidoux to downtown-area park

For a third year in a row, Fourth of July fireworks won’t be launched from atop Riverside’s Mount Rubidoux and it’s unclear whether future shows will return to the mountain.

The Riverside City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 8, approved a three-year $ 225,675 deal that sets the stage for fireworks to be aired at nearby Ryan Bonaminio Park this coming Independence Day — as was done in 2021 — as well as at La Sierra Park on the city’s west side.

The contract with Pyro Spectaculars of Rialto, which delivered dozens of Fourth of July shows in Riverside before the coronavirus pandemic, calls for extra aerial pyrotechnics at La Sierra in a bid to make up for the abrupt cancellation of last year’s westside performance on the afternoon of July 4, which angered thousands 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 enhancements. Parks, Recreation and Community Services Director Pamela Galera said that money will boost the number of fireworks catapulted into the air by 175 above the 2019 show.

“We’re going to do a little bit above and beyond this year for La Sierra because of the unfortunate incident that happened last year,” Galera said in an interview before 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, a city report states.

Council members were all for doing something special in La Sierra, but expressed angst in a more-than-two-hour discussion about hosting the central Riverside show at Ryan Bonaminio Park instead of on Mount Rubidoux.

The council voted 5-2, with Ronaldo Fierro and Chuck Conder voting no, to hold the downtown-area show at the park this year but to leave the location open for 2023 and 2024 — as long as the vendor is agreeable. City Attorney Phaedra Norton said officials will attempt to negotiate that change and, if it encounters resistance, will bring the contract back for a follow-up discussion Tuesday, Feb. 15.

Fierro said he was born and raised in Riverside and that seeing fireworks shot from Mount Rubidoux is an important tradition. He didn’t believe Ryan Bonaminio Park performed well as a replacement last year, and didn’t want to lock the park in as the locale for the next three Fourth of July holidays.

“Frankly, it is not a very good location to show fireworks,” Fierro said.

Others agreed.

During a public-comment period, six people called in, all in favor of returning the show to Mount Rubidoux. They said launching fireworks from the mountaintop is a tradition that should continue, that fewer people could see the fireworks last year because they were shot from the lower park and that traffic was awful around the park.

“I really think it is important to have the fireworks visible to as many people as possible,” said Mike Gardner.

Steve Johnson, who runs the Facebook group “What is going on in Riverside County?,” said he conducted a group poll and more than 1,200 people wanted fireworks to return to Mount Rubidoux — and about 50 didn’t.

Several people commented by email. Donna Stephenson urged the council to continue the tradition that Riverside is known for.

However, Fire Chief Michael Moore urged against bringing the show back to the mountain, saying it is a fire-prone area that has caught fire on past Fourth of July holidays. Fire officials worry that in an emergency requiring evacuation, a brush fire could create a “catastrophic” situation, he said.

“It just comes down to it being unsafe to light fire on top of the hill,” Moore said.

Last year’s show was a lot safer, he said.

Galera added that the vendor, Pyro Spectaculars, told the city it wouldn’t do a show on the mountain because of the fire hazard and the challenge of hauling fireworks supplies and equipment up a narrow, steep road.

Ward 1 Council Member Erin Edwards, who represents the downtown area, said, “We have to listen when our vendor says this is something that 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 Fourth of July shows for the city dating to 1996 and most recently provided pyrotechnics in 2019, Galera said.

In 2020, no shows were held on the holiday because of the pandemic.

The vendor Riverside hired for last year’s twin Independence Day fireworks displays canceled the La Sierra show just hours before nightfall last July 4, sending shock waves across the city. The City Council voted 7-0 on Sept. 21 to terminate its $ 198,000, multi-year contract with the firm, Santa Monica-based Exposhows.

“We knew pretty much on the Fourth of July last year that we were going to be switching vendors,” Fierro said Tuesday.

Press Enterprise