Due to ongoing fundraising problems, La Jolla’s annual pyrotechnic display has been forced to cancel this year. And the possibility of ever reviving it appears bleak.
“Unfortunately, in early January 2018, it was brought to our attention that many of the donors have moved on to other concerns, and will not be making contributions to the fireworks this year,” said Fourth of July organizers, including the La Jolla Village Merchants Association, in a Feb. 20 press release. “We have contacted all the donors to determine the viability of the event this year. Of the many donors, only one responded that they pledged to donate this year.”
The letter went on to state the event "depends upon pledged donations that are received early since the event requires large, non-refundable deposits to reserve the date. Without these donations, the La Jolla fireworks are not funded. So, it is with sadness, we must make the announcement that we will not be moving forward this year to reserve a fireworks vendor.”
For its first quarter-century, the annual La Jolla Cove fireworks display, begun by La Jolla restaurateur George Hauer in 1985, went almost without a hitch. Then came legal challenges alleging environmental damage to the ocean from the annual coastal, one-day pyrotechnic display.
After Hauer stepped back relinquishing control of the event, it was saved by the formation of a grassroots group known as La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation. Spearheaded by Deborah Marengo, LJCFF has struggled ever since to raise the approximately $60,000 — and rising — the cost of staging fireworks annually.
LJVMA, the community’s business improvement district, took over the fireworks extravaganza in 2015 and had been working with Marengo to keep the event afloat. But Marengo told La Jolla Village News the formidable task of fundraising for fireworks each year has just become overwhelming.
“This year we had four sponsors fall out, and I was looking at raising another $30,000 to put this (display) on,” Marengo said adding she had contract commitments that needed to be honored soon. “It’s just hard to keep going, year in and year out when you have to start fundraising all over again late in the game.”
Marengo said she and others pulled out all the stops in one last-ditch attempt to secure fireworks sponsorship this year, noting, “We had a few sponsors, but not enough to make a dent.”
Reacting personally to the loss of the event, Marengo said, “It’s very sad. It’s really heartbreaking. I wish there was something else that I could do, but the task just keeps getting larger and larger.”
Pointing out Fourth of July is one San Diego’s biggest annual events and the largest crowd draws, Marengo added it was a “daunting task” to handle, and pay for, everything from retaining a private company to do the display, to hiring police and handling all the security necessary to make a fireworks display safe for the public.
Marengo said she shouldered the burden of organizing the Cove display for several years because “it was important for me and the community. It’s really been part of our tradition. So, it’s just really sad to see that go.”
Marengo summed her feelings about fireworks' fizzling in saying, “We were able to keep it going every year through lawsuits and everything. But the event … I think it’s time (end) has come.”
“The annual 4th of July Fireworks event could not have made it since 2008, without the many people behind the scenes who volunteer their time,” concluded the joint letter on the event’s cancellation sent out to La Jollans. “We want to use this opportunity to thank everyone who stepped in to make the past Fourth of July events happen.”