July 4 Fireworks fizzle in north Jackson

The northern portion of Jackson County will go without fireworks again this Fourth of July. Last year’s display in Dillsboro was rescheduled for December due to rain, but it appears future fireworks have been scuttled due to funding.

“Fireworks require a significant investment in funds,” explained Jackson County Manager Chuck Wooten. 

In 2013, the Jackson County Parks and Recreation Department contributed $20,800 toward fireworks. That’s $11,800 for the Dillsboro display and $9,000 for one in Cashiers. This year the county is choosing to hold the funding and put it toward musical performances and community events in Sylva and Cashiers.

Fireworks used to be set off in Sylva, but that ended when the old courthouse on Main Street was renovated and officials began fearing the fireworks could damage the structure.

“We’ll never be able to do that again,” said Sylva Mayor Maurice Moody.

The county then moved the display to a quarry in Dillsboro. But that locale is no longer optimal.

“Over time, as the rock was removed from the quarry, the height of the ledge from which the fireworks were shot was lowered, thereby requiring larger shells to project the fireworks,” Wooten said. “This caused the price to increase and the number of shells to be reduced.”

At a recent Sylva town board meeting, Ron Robinson — fresh from his primary battle with victor Jane Hipps for a state Senate seat — pitched the concept of a July 4 laser light show on Main Street. He said the spectacle — with a price tag of $15,000 — would draw people to the town without endangering property. 

“My concern is this: we have not had an event like this for the past couple of years and people are going to Bryson City,” Robinson said. 

Sylva officials needed a tutorial.

“Ron, I’m not familiar with a laser light show,” said Commissioner Barbara Hamilton. “Can you explain what it looks like?”

“I’m kind of like Barbara; I’ve never seen a laser light show,” said Moody. “Is there sound to go along with it or just lights?”

Robinson explained that a laser light show is “like Stone Mountain.” 

“There is music and also, like, a story,” Robinson said. “They tell a story, so it would certainly go along with Independence Day.”

Sylva officials ultimately balked at the $15,000 price and the short planning window. After receiving a tepid response in Sylva, Robinson, who initially planned to approach Jackson County officials with the pitch, has dropped the laser show concept.

A Fourth of July fireworks display can be found in Jackson County this year for those willing to head to Cashiers. The Village Green Council, in coordination with the Greater Cashiers Area Merchant Association, has secured sponsorship for the fireworks. 

— By Jeremy Morrison

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