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CRA to consider organization of July 4th celebration

By Staff | Nov 28, 2009

Cape Coral’s Red, White & BOOM! is down but not out.
Organization of the 20-year-old fireworks show was dropped by the Cape Coral Chamber of Commerce this week because of the floundering economy, the loss of Saturn of Cape Coral as its title sponsor, and escalating infrastructure and insurance costs associated with organizing the event.
Cape Coral Councilman Bill Deile suggested the the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency take over administration of the event since it is held in the downtown district.
Executive Director John Jacobsen said the CRA’s board of directors is interested in entertaining the idea of taking over Red, White & BOOM! but such a decision would need to be researched beforehand.
“It would be a wonderful thing to do to save the event,” said Jacobsen. “I do think they (CRA board of directors) would be excited about it.”
He pointed out that regardless of whether the CRA or another organization takes over the July 4th festival, the event itself will likely change drastically.
“It will take on a different form no matter what happens” said Jacobsen.
If, for instance, the CRA took the reins of Red, White & BOOM!, the event location would have to be moved, specifically because the foot of the bridge on Cape Coral Parkway — where the event has been held for years — is out of the CRA boundaries. By state law the agency can’t put money into something that isn’t in its prescribed area.
Next year’s fireworks event would also likely have all-new sponsors.
“Obviously, we would look for a title sponsor and community support,” he said. “It is a little premature to say without having a look at what it costs.”
The board of directors for the CRA next meets on Dec. 15 and Jacobsen said any decision is now in their hands.
“It is a board decision,” he said. “If we had the opportunity to bring thousands of people to the downtown and find ways to spread it out throughout downtown with a series of different events, it may improve a whole lot of things.”
Jason Tramonte, chairman of the CRA Board, said the issue will be discussed at the next board meeting, but said he couldn’t say whether the board would support the idea of taking over the event.
“It will be on the agenda,” he said.
CRA Board Member Lou Simmons said the agency wants to do something to ensure that Cape Coral residents have a Fourth of July celebration, but he said if the board decides to take over the event it doesn’t mean that Red, White & BOOM! will resemble its old self.
Simmons said he wouldn’t even continue calling it Red, White & BOOM! because it would never be to the same scale as in previous years.
“If we do it, it won’t be anywhere to scale of where it was before,” said Simmons. “We don’t have the resources.”
This year’s July 4th celebration featured a $1 admission price for the first time ever, but that additional revenue still was not enough to keep the event afloat.
Approximately $90,000 was spent on the 2009 event, an amount too high for some area businesses which might be interested in overseeing it.
The Cape is not alone in taking another look at community festivals.
Last year the city of Fort Myers at first cancelled its Fourth of July festivities for monetary reasons, but later received a $30,000 donation from from Sandbill Realty Group to offer the free fireworks show.
Title sponsors for Red, White & BOOM! have contributed approximately $50,000 towards the event.
Mary Ann Evans, owner of the Leapin’ Lizard on Cape Coral Parkway, said she would work alongside the CRA if it decides to take on Red, White & BOOM! The restaurant is located next door to the lot where part of the event has historically been hosted.
“If the CRA takes it on we will help,” she said. “I’m sure they have the capability of doing it. The functions we have done with the CRA have been successful.”
Many downtown businesses depend on events like Red, White & BOOM! to make money over the summer months. Evans said Leapin’ Lizard would likely get big crowds at night and break even if it was cancelled.
Other businesses may not be as fortunate.