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Attendance suffers at celebration

Fearing fire danger, city substitutes lasers for fireworks on July 4. The crowd reaction to the result is decidedly mixed.

July 07, 2007|By Chris Wiebe

The Starlight Bowl's annual Fourth of July celebration went off this year without a bang — or at least without fireworks.

But that also meant a holiday without brush fires, without sudden flare-ups from misfired pyrotechnics and without putting Hillside District homes in danger.

When the Burbank Fire Department called off the traditional fireworks display at the end of May due to potential fire hazards, the Park, Recreation and Community Services Department searched for an alternative grand finale to its show. What officials came up with was a laser lightshow. "It was great," Burbank resident Ray Montoya said. "With the concert and everything, it really made up for no fireworks. That was my first time there at the Starlight Bowl and I was very pleased."

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The night began with a fanfare of cannon blasts of confetti, immediately followed by a roaring jet flyover. Soloist Dale Kristien — who sang the role of Christine Daae throughout the Los Angeles run of "The Phantom of the Opera" — joined the Burbank Philharmonic for a performance, in addition to a show by the band The Answer.

"The whole package we were very happy with," said Eric Hansen, Park, Recreation and Community Services director. "And the flyover was impressive. That's what kicked it off and it was a impressive big-bang beginning."

But the lack of fireworks on the Fourth of July was something that some attendees could not get used to.

"I don't know — it kind of felt like a gyp at the end," Los Angeles resident Randy Dean said. "And my friends were giving me a hard time because I got the tickets and convinced them to go with me."

But even those who felt that something was missing without the fireworks conceded that safety precautions were well warranted.

"I really didn't know what to expect, but I'm glad they went with a laser light show because I live in the canyon," Hillside District resident Virginia McKinny said. "I know there was a fire last year, and with the situation this year, I'm not sure it would be as easy to put out."

Show turnout suffered this year as a result of the fireworks cancellation, with attendance at between 1,700 and 1,800 people, compared to about 4,000 show goers last year, officials said.

"Attendance was probably around half of what we generally would have for that concert," Hansen said.

But given the variables surrounding this year's celebration, the result was positive, he added.

"Again you have to commend the staff to put together the extra effort to make the program as successful as it was, given the fact that we had to change direction," he said.

"We had to go on when the fireworks were canceled, but it was totally the right call and it certainly made for a little more easy thoughts — you don't get nervous about what might happen if you have an errant shell."


  • CHRIS WIEBE covers City Hall and the courts. He may be reached at (818) 637-3242 or by e-mail at chris.wiebelatimes.com.

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