UPDATE: After Milwaukee County removed outdoor capacity limits for county parks Thursday, South Milwaukee Common Council voted to hold their 4th of July fireworks celebration after all. They had previously canceled it due to those capacity restrictions.
In a span of less than 24 hours, the South Milwaukee 4th of July Fireworks was canceled, then potentially brought back. It’s proof that as COVID-19 restrictions change, local leaders have to be flexible.
South Milwaukee’s 4th of July Fireworks attracts thousands of people to Grant Park. Tuesday night, the city’s common council voted unanimously to cancel the fireworks because of capacity restrictions at Milwaukee County parks.
“In order to have the fireworks, the city of South Milwaukee requests a permit from Milwaukee County, and we were uncertain we would get that permit when we saw regulations that the crowd had to be 1,000 people or less,” says South Milwaukee Mayor Erik Brooks. “We decided it would be too hard to restrict and regulate the crowd to only 1,000 people at Grant Park.”
But in a matter of hours, that changed.
“I got a call Wednesday morning from the director of Milwaukee County Parks saying that indeed the plan is to lift that restriction on outdoor capacity for events,” Brooks said. “So, we hope we can now have the show.”
Milwaukee County Parks confirms to TMJ4 they’ll be ending capacity limits and will share details of that publicly on Thursday. That same day, Mayor Brooks will be asking South Milwaukee’s Common Council to reverse its decision to cancel the 4th of July fireworks at Grant Park.
“Throughout all of COVID, we make the best decisions we can as local leaders, with the information in front of us, and adjust as that information changes, like in this case,” Brooks said.
Hearing the fireworks will likely happen after all is big for South Milwaukee businesses and families, especially kids.
“I love fireworks,” said Tensley Staples, 5. “I like when they like explode and light up the whole sky. It’s very fun to have celebrations, they mean a lot to people.”
“It’s tradition,” said Brayden Staples, 8. “It’s a good thing.”
We caught up with Brayden and Tensley Staples as they were enjoying a day at Grant Park with their great-grandmother, Rachel Beaudoin.
“I think it’s safer to be with a crowd outside in a park, than anywhere else,” Beaudoin said. “It’s been a long time of being cooped up. It’s great for families and friends to be able to come together for something like the 4th of July fireworks. It’s one step closer to normal, and bringing the community back together.”
In Milwaukee, this year’s fireworks commemorating Independence Day are still canceled, because leaders say there is not enough staff to safely put on the event this year.
But in South Milwaukee, the mayor says staffing is not an issue. The fireworks display will be all-hands-on-deck though, with police officers, firefighters and street department employees working long hours. Mayor Brooks estimates the cost of the fireworks at Grant Park to be around $10,000.
Fireworks business is booming
At Phantom Fireworks in Caledonia, Manager Ryley Harlow says he has already seen business pick up. Some fireworks retailers have had issues stocking their shelves because of shipping delays due to COVID-19.
Phantom’s shelves are lined with fireworks ready to go, but Harlow says customers may notice a price change from years past. He says that’s partly to blame on the exchange rate with China, where many fireworks are produced.
“There’s a lot of factors, not only just the currency issue, the shipping and the spaces on the shipping vessels, those are limited,” says Harlow.