Sugar House Park cancels July 4 fireworks — but not because of money this time

Staffing issues • Apollo Burger is still willing to sponsor the event, but there’s no staff to run it.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Fireworks explode over Sugar House on Saturday, July 4, 2015.

Barring some sort of eleventh-hour reprieve, Salt Lake City’s most popular Fourth of July fireworks display has fizzled out.

The annual event at Sugar House Park is a no-go, according to Chad Anderson, president of the Sugar House Park Authority board of trustees. He issued a statement that because of “cost and environmental concerns, the private organizer of the previous years’ July 4​th​ fireworks event has chosen not to put on the event” in 2018.

For the past three years, the fireworks display has been organized by the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce, which notified the park authority in August 2017 it could not continue to manage the event. The money has come from Apollo Burger, which was willing to fund 2018’s event, as it has for the past four years.

“We were a little bit blindsided ourselves,” said Michael Ziouras, president of Apollo Burger. “We were hoping to still be there for them. The challenge was that there was no more ‘them.’ I think they just decided there were too many logistics, too many operational hands required to pull it off.”

In 2014, Ziouras announced his company would sponsor the fireworks for five years. This would have been the fifth year, and he hopes there’s a way the event can be saved.

“We still want to continue,” he said. “The funds are available and there. It’s just that we don’t have the staffing to pull it off. Unfortunately, as a small restaurant group, that was well outside our area of expertise. If somebody would organize it, we would still be able to host it.”

Lori Gillespie, executive director of the Sugar House Chamber of Commerce, said her group had to pull back.

“We decided it took too much for our small board,” she said, because “seven or eight” people did everything from applying for the proper permits to cleaning up the entire park July 5.

It was an incredibly small group. We kept reaching saying, ‘Hey, does anybody want to help us?’ But nobody did.”

This is the latest pothole in what has proved to be a rocky road for fireworks. Just last year, sparks from the incendiaries set off five small grass fires at the Interstate 80 off-ramp adjacent to the park, burning 2 acres.

Salt Lake City cut off funding after the 2009 event, but there was a last-minute reprieve in 2010, when a fundraiser brought in more than $85,000 from area residents and businesses.

The fireworks, which draw a crowd estimated at 30,000 to 35,000 annually, have been privately funded since then. But, according to Anderson, “as the event grows in popularity, more requirements and permits are necessary for it to be safe and successful. Those additional measures require more funds, time and effort to coordinate each year.”

Anderson sounded the alarm in November, but no sponsor has stepped forward. And at this point, he said, it’s too late to save the 2018 fireworks.

The time required to produce this event has passed,” he said. “Without a private organizer and private funds, the July 4​th​ fireworks show for 2018 will not take place.”