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Boys & Girls Clubs pulls out of July Fourth fireworks event

April 13, 2017 GMT

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte is pulling the plug on its annual Fourth of July fireworks show, an unexpected change that is forcing city officials to try to come up with a new plan less than three months before Independence Day.

Santa Fe City Manager Brian Snyder announced during Wednesday’s City Council meeting that the club would not be sponsoring the fireworks show this year. Snyder said he wanted to talk to city officials in private about the possibility of finding another sponsor for the event, which attracts throngs of people annually.

In an interview after the announcement, Mayor Javier Gonzales said the city will do everything in its power to make sure the show goes on.

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“We need to roll up our sleeves and seek out a partner who can deliver a fireworks show for our community,” Gonzales said. “We’ll work with city staff to determine the best path forward, and I plan to do everything I can to see that this exciting family event continues.”

Roman Abeyta, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Fe/Del Norte, said the organization has presented the fireworks display for more than 20 years as a fundraiser through a contract with the city. But officials with the group decided this year, instead, to focus on a larger fundraiser planned in late June at the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino.

The Fourth of July fireworks event, which includes a pre-pyrotechnics lineup of live music, hasn’t been bringing in enough money in recent years, Abeyta said.

“We don’t generate a lot of money from that,” he said. “… It got smaller over the years as the venue changed.”

In the past, the club could allow families to watch the show from the football field at Santa Fe High School’s Ivan Head Stadium. But in the summer of 2013, when the school was laying down new synthetic turf on the field, the event moved to the Municipal Recreation Complex on Caja del Rio Road. That year, attendance rose from the usual 2,500 or 3,000 paying spectators to nearly 4,000 — likely because it was more difficult out there to watch the show for free, Abeyta said.

Under the club’s contract to produce the show, the city would foot the bill for the pyrotechnics, and the club received proceeds from a $5-per-vehicle parking donation.

In 2014, the show returned to Ivan Head Stadium, but patrons had to sit in the bleachers or tailgate in the parking lot rather than sit in the field. The following two years, the fireworks were again launched from the stadium, but the music show was moved to Ragle Park, and spectators were urged to watch the fireworks from there.

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The move to Ragle led to a decline in parking donations, Abeyta said.

Snyder said Abeyta notified him by email that the club wouldn’t present the show this year.

“He’s willing to turn over all their plans and records and information to another sponsor, if there is one,” Snyder said. “I know the city puts money towards it — somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000 a year — but I also understand it’s a lot more than that to put the event on. From an insurance standpoint and liability standpoint, there’s some challenges.”

Snyder wouldn’t say whether it was possible the fireworks show would be canceled this year.

“That’s why I asked for input from councilors, to see if they know of any other sponsors that may want to step up,” he said.

During an interview in 2014, Abeyta told The New Mexican that after all expenses are paid, the club usually makes somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.

“We don’t make a lot of money,” he said. “We do it more so that there is a community show for families.”

Cynthia Miller of The New Mexican contributed to this report.

Contact Daniel J. Chacón at 505-986-3089 or dchacon@sfnewmexican.com. Follow him on Twitter @danieljchacon.