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Op-Ed: Questions linger over decision to cancel Milwaukee’s July 4 fireworks show | Opinion


This year, the city of Milwaukee decided to cancel its annual 4th of July fireworks show, sowing disappointment for the thousands of residents who have come to cherish the annual lakefront event that celebrates the nation’s Declaration of Independence.

Alec Feygin, a local resident, called the decision “unfortunate,” but insisted he and his family will still “celebrate [the] 4th of July.”

Ben Cook, a Milwaukee resident who has attended more than a few of these celebrations, said, “They’re always definitely the highlight of the city’s Fourth of July celebration.”

Unfortunately, Cook and Feygin, along with thousands of other Wisconsinites, were forced to make different plans this year because Milwaukee’s political leaders decided the annual fireworks show simply wasn’t worth the cost.

According to Jeff Orlowski, Milwaukee County Parks director of recreation, “The cost outweighs the revenue that we do receive.”

Guy Smith, Milwaukee County Parks executive director, took a different tack, saying the “fireworks have run their course.”

So, why did the city cancel the fireworks show? Was it because of a lack of funding? Or, were there other reasons behind the decision?

Thanks to some terrific investigative reporting from WISN 12 News, it seems there is more to the story than initially meets the eye.

For instance, the decision to cancel the event was made in mid-April, after a group of Milwaukee leaders decided in secret that they did not think the event was worth the $250,000 price tag.

However, as WISN 12 News reports, the decision to call off the annual fireworks show was “embargoed” for more than a month, and conveniently released on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. A classic example of a holiday weekend Friday news dump, if ever there was one.

Tami Garrison, a board member for the Milwaukee Parks Foundation, wrote a day after the decision was made: “I believe the fireworks not happening this year presents a reputational risk for [Milwaukee Parks Foundation].”

She added, “When the information about fireworks becomes public, many people may look to place blame. And we could be in the line of sight for that.”

For the next few months, several Milwaukee officials played the blame game as they sought to seek cover for the unpopular decision to cancel the fireworks show.

But, was it really due to lack of funding?

Milwaukee County Parks Foundation Executive Director Rebecca Stoner has admitted there were “some more factors that played into this decision.” However, she was coy in providing more information.

In 2024, the Milwaukee Department of Parks, Recreation & Culture’s budget includes total outlays of $45,651,853.

Surely, the agency could have budgeted $200,000 for the fireworks show. Before the announcement to cancel the fireworks was made, the department had already raised $50,000 in private funds for the show.

Moreover, as WISN 12 News reports, several charitable organizations and wealthy donors were ready and willing to step in and provide the other $200,000 so that the show could go on.

Yet, despite all of this, a handful of top Milwaukee officials still decided they wanted to cancel the family-friendly event.

This begs the question: Why? Obviously, I cannot read their minds, so my answer is pure speculation. I personally believe the decision to cancel the show had absolutely nothing to do with money but lots to do with crazy climate alarmism and a disturbing trend of anti-Americanism.

I cite the climate alarmism angle because the radical group MKE FreshAir Collective is ardently opposed to fireworks under the misguided assumption that they are bad for the environment and human health.

Is it possible that city leaders bowed to outside pressure from kooky environmental groups hellbent on canceling the fireworks show because they claim it is hazardous? Langston Verdin, founder and co-executive director of MKE FreshAir Collective, claims setting off fireworks results in “dangerous pollutants in the air.” To that, I say: Evidence, please.

Of course, it is equally possible that Milwaukee’s leaders decided to cancel the fireworks show in a vile attempt at virtue signaling. As we’ve seen in recent years, many on the left despise extravagant displays of patriotism. Whatever the reason, I hope the residents of Milwaukee voice their displeasure with the decision to cancel the fireworks show. In two short years, the United States will celebrate its 250th birthday. The people of Milwaukee deserve a spectacular fireworks show for this monumental event.


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