Sugar House Park goes dark for Fourth of July, reactions mixed
Jun 29, 2018 15h08
By Spencer Belnap
A longtime tradition for some families won’t happen this year, as the Sugar House Park fireworks show was cancelled. (City Journals)
By Spencer W. Belnap | [email protected]
The Sugar House Park (1330 East 2100 South) Fourth of July fireworks event has become a Salt Lake City tradition. It developed into one of, if not the most popular, fireworks display in the city. More than 30,000 people from the Salt Lake Valley and beyond filled the park in 2017 to watch them. The skies above the park will not be lit up with fireworks this year, though.
The Sugar House Chamber of Commerce was the main organizer of the event since 2014 but elected not to reapply for this year. Apollo Burger had been the main sponsor the past four years and was willing to provide most of the funds again this round. The main issue that arose is lack of staffing and volunteers to help organize and operate the massive event, especially the cleanup of the entire park on July 5.. The Sugar House Park Authority Board was forced to determine toward the end of May it was too late for any group or groups to step up and make it happen this year. Many in the community are disappointed to see the big tradition stop.
“I went to Highland High School, and some of my fondest memories from my youth were the Sugar House celebrations,” Salt Lake resident Nicholas Barton said. “I was a little disappointed. I discussed it with a friend while we were walking around the park the other night. It sounds like it’s a logistical issue as much as anything else.”
Barton lives downtown and works in Park City. “This fourth I’ll be working in PC, but if I were off there’d be a good possibility I’d go to Sugar House.”
Midvale resident Amy Goodfellow echoed similar sentiments, but thinks the event may have become too big.
“My fiancé and I have gone the last three years with his kids,” she said. “We’d grab a blanket, some take out food and head out. It was always so much fun. Last year was crazier for sure. Not only were fires right behind the park, but also it was packed full. Across from the top of the park, vendors were selling everything from water to blankets. It felt more like a swap meet or something last year.” They plan on watching fireworks at Jordan Park this year.
While there are plenty of people saddened to see the fireworks show not happen, some nearby residents of the park are happy about the outcome.
MaryAnn Wada and her family live in adjacent neighborhood Highland Park and won’t mourn the loss of the fireworks.
“I have small children and pets that get scared of the loud noises,” Wada said. “I’m terrified of a fire starting on our roof, so we hose it down before festivities begin. They just aren’t good for safety, and air quality is also a concern if you want to factor in the environmental impact.” Wada also mentioned homes near the park could be vulnerable to theft and vandalism if they are empty for the night.
“Traffic is last on the list, but still makes an impact on those that live here,” Wada said.
When the announcement was made again at the Sugar House Community Council meeting on June 6, there were no strong comments from attendees or demands for further explanation from the Park Authority representative present.
“I think it’s a generational thing in some ways,” Community Council Chair Landon Clark said. “Older residents seem to be the most upset about it, because it’s just what they’ve always done. I think it’s the same people who complain about all the development that’s happening and taking away the kind of bedroom community feel of Sugar House.”
While 2018’s fireworks show will definitely not take place, it is unknown whether or not they will come back in 2019 or future years. An organization or multiple organizations will have to plan well ahead of July and make sure they can pull it off both financially and logistically. Many in the Sugar House community and beyond hope something comes back for Independence Day at the park. The community council is already thinking about an event but at a different time of year.
“We are looking at doing something in the fall of next year—not fireworks, just a big festival in the park,” Clark said. “We kind of owe it to the community.”