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E.C. Fourth of July Fireworks Show to Continue at High Bridge

City Council votes in favor of High Bridge launch point, wants to add more Independence Day events

McKenna Scherer |

TAKING THE HIGH BRIDGE. The Eau Claire Fireworks Show will use the High Bridge as its launch point again this summer, the resolution for it passed on Jan. 23. (Photo via Unsplash)
TAKING THE HIGH BRIDGE. The Eau Claire Fireworks Show will use the High Bridge as its launch point again this summer, the resolution for it passed on Jan. 23. (Photo via Unsplash)

Eau Claire’s Independence Day fireworks will be launched again from the High Bridge over the Chippewa River, as they were last year,  the Eau Claire City Council voted recently.

The council’s 6-2 vote on Jan. 23 followed input several weeks early from a special July Fourth Celebration Committee that had been formed to study the issue. Traditionally held in Carson Park, the city fireworks display was moved to the High Bridge in 2023 in part because of public safety concerns.

After opening a public survey last November to gauge community thoughts on Eau Claire’s annual fireworks show – which solicited feedback from neighborhood associations, veterans, city departments, the state Department of Natural Resources, and others – the committee also recommended there be additional events and celebrations on the Fourth of July.

The Ad Hoc Committee was made up of seven members: City Councilman Andrew Werthmann, City Councilman Charlie Johnson, Visit Eau Claire’s Benny Anderson, the County Veterans Service Commission’s Adam Kohls, the Third War Neighborhood Association’s Susan Kasik-Miller, the City-County Board of Health’s True Vue, and community member Kevin Zehr.

The community-wide survey garnered more than 1,100 responses. Of those, 81% supported a city fireworks show; 66% said they supported the idea of additional events throughout the day to create a bigger community celebration; 60% said they wanted the fireworks show itself to be bigger; and more than 50% of respondents said the show was a must-have event.

Survey results (graphs via presentation)
Survey results (graphs via presentation)

The council also received feedback from the city’s Community Services Division, Eau Claire Fire and Rescue, and Eau Claire Police Department, all of which are involved with coordinating the annual fireworks show.

After last year’s fireworks show, which was launched from the High Bridge instead of Carson Park – long the site of the fireworks, though they had been launched from other locations before – many community members were vocal about not caring for the location change. At the time, the city said they moved the show mainly due to safety concerns.

The city’s Community Services Division, as well as the fire and police departments, restated various safety concerns posed by hosting a fireworks show at Carson Park. They said that using the same venue for decades while the population and fireworks show continued to grow seemed unfeasible when it came to safety. The lack of access points in and out of Carson Park Stadium was both a concern and a hurdle in assisting people in need of emergency services.

“Having grown up here and watching the show as a kid at Carson Park, it feels a bit strange to not have it there anymore, but it has outgrown the park and needs to move to a safer location,” the statement from the fire department read.

The firework show’s manager from ACE Pyro also stated the High Bridge was the most desirable location from a fireworks display operation point of view, due to its elevation over water, as well as the availability of viewing points from four bridges downstream and two parking ramps nearby, improved security access, and the minimal number of buildings in the near fall zone.

The High Bridge over the Chippewa River. (Photo by Andrea Paulseth)
The High Bridge over the Chippewa River. (Photo by Andrea Paulseth)

“(The) public survey, staff, and vendor input led to a clear case to return to the High Bridge as a launch point,” the committee said. “The survey found that not only was it the public’s preferred choice to be downtown, but the staff and vendor expressed support for the option from a safety, staffing, and enjoyability standpoint.”

Community concerns gathered through the survey included those affected by fireworks, such as veterans with PTSD. The committee suggested a “robust educational campaign well in advance of the holiday” to educate the public on both PTSD and the impacts of illegal fireworks use, which were also a concern.

Though the City Council voted to continue the annual fireworks show at the High Bridge as well as to add more Fourth of July events, not everyone was on board. Councilmembers Andrew Werthmann and Jeremy Gragert voted against the measure. “One in five people want something different (than a fireworks show). A great majority of people want to continue to blow things up,” Werthmann said. “I fundamentally disagree that fireworks are something that we should continue to do.”

Eau Claire City Council meets every second and fourth Tuesday of the month. Learn more online.