Thursday, 16 January 2020 13:18

Chamber Establishes Saratoga Springs Fireworks Fund

By Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce | Business
First Night fireworks. Photo by SuperSource Media, LLC. First Night fireworks. Photo by SuperSource Media, LLC.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Here’s a one question quiz that I hope everyone in Saratoga Springs will take.

Saratoga Springs plays host to 64 permitted special events every year. These range from Chowderfest, to the Victorian Streetwalk, Flag Day Parade, Beekman Street Art Fair etc., etc.

These events are attended by residents and often times attract visitors too.

They are fun, festive, and add to our quality of life. Often times, they generate business for our hotels, B&B’s, bars, restaurants, stores and shops.

Now while I can’t speak for all of these events, the Saratoga County Chamber plays a leading role in managing Saratoga’s All American Celebration which includes a spectacular fireworks show on July 4, in Congress Park.

And we took the lead in securing the permits from the City and managing this year’s First Night fireworks after they were originally cancelled. 

So here’s the question: Who pays for the fireworks?

A. Government
B. Sponsors
C. Event organizers
D. All of the Above

I’m willing to bet most people think it is the government. But that’s not the whole story. Don’t get me wrong. We could not host these events without the support of the City.  The Accounts Office facilitates the permit process.The Police, Fire, and DPW Departments all review these permit applications. This takes time and we know time is money. They provide fencing, signs, trash receptacles, etc. The City pays the $5,000 per event cost for the insurance event organizers need to shut down a road. The Finance and Accounts departments are considering purchasing variable messaging boards and security gates that will be made available to event organizers. This is all helpful. But event organizers pay a fee for Police, Fire, EMS, and DPW. These fees are based on the number of officers, firefighters, ambulances, DPW trucks, and personnel that are assigned to work at these events. 

For instance, the Chamber was charged $3,387.50 for police, fire, and traffic department personnel for the July 4th celebration. We were also charged $2,495 for the First Night fireworks

So it must be the sponsors that pay for the fireworks and these costs, right? That’s not the whole story either. 

In 2019, we raised $14,140 for the July 4th celebration but had total expenses of $17,512.50. This means we lost $3,372.50.

A reduction in sponsorship dollars contributed to the decision by Saratoga Arts to initially cancel this year’s First Night fireworks. The decline in sponsorships is partly due to how many more events there are now. Every day businesses get requests for donations to support events and a range of worthy causes. 

We are fortunate in Saratoga Springs to have more than our fair share of businesses that sponsor everything. Many give to some. 

Some businesses, however, incorrectly believe that others will pick up the tab. So they don’t contribute at all. Event organizers don’t fund these events either. 

The staff time we invest to host events, like the July 4th Festival and the First Night fireworks this year, is for the benefit of the community. We are not being reimbursed.

So if events are not funded by the government, sponsors, or event organizers, it must be all of the above, right? Yes. Yes. Yes!

We need more sponsors and more sponsorship money if we want these events to survive. We need more people — individuals and families — who love attending these events to make a contribution. And, we need the various departments that now charge us a fee to work with us to reduce costs too. We need EVERYONE to contribute or I fear these events we say we enjoy will just go away.

To kick start this effort, we setup a text-to-donate program for those who want to have fireworks in Saratoga Springs on July 4 and First Night in 2020. If you enjoy these firework celebrations or your business wants them to continue, please make a donation today. Text “SARATOGAFIREWORKS” to 44-321.

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