Dillon’s Fourth of July fireworks show shot down


The county will be a little quieter this Fourth of July with no fireworks over Lake Dillon as community officials continue to consider the impacts of large crowds in the area.

The town of Dillon officially pulled the plug on their planned fireworks show over the reservoir this Independence Day, or rather the plug was pulled for them at the monthly Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee (DRReC) meeting last week.

Dillon’s marketing and communications director Kerstin Anderson said the town had every intention of moving forward with a fireworks display going into the DRReC meeting last Tuesday — a committee made up of representatives from Dillon, Frisco, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and Denver Water. But after questions arose about public safety and the community’s desire to collaborate on big projects of this nature, the town’s permit was denied.

Denver Water, which operates the reservoir, is a required ‘yes’ for any events to take place on the reservoir. Denver Water’s manager of recreation Brandon Ransom, who serves on the committee, was among those who opposed the show.

According to Todd Hartman, a spokesman for Denver Water, the decision was largely influenced by health and safety concerns of the community, citing input from law enforcement and emergency services worried about their ability to navigate potentially extreme congestion around the reservoir, including on U.S. Highway 6 and CO Highway 9.

“Denver Water is proud to support many recreational activities and events around Dillon Reservoir through the DRReC partnership, which allows all stakeholders an opportunity to weigh in so we can carefully evaluate the activity with regard to public safety and resource requirements,” said Ransom in a statement provided to the Summit Daily.

The county’s fireworks shows began making news in January after Breckenridge decided to cancel their show, citing concerns regarding wildfire safety after back-to-back seasons with major fires: the Peak 2 Fire and the Buffalo Mountain Fire.

In response to Breckenridge’s cancellation, Frisco decided to cancel their annual show over the reservoir, though the decision was much more heavily influenced by safety concerns surrounding crowds and traffic than fires. On a particularly busy day in late January, emergency services from around the county complained that prolific traffic and crowds had become a legitimate factor in inhibiting emergency operations throughout the county, and Frisco feared that an even bigger turnout to their fireworks show in the wake of Breckenridge’s cancellation could create major public safety concerns.

“The big issues had to do with life safety, and concerns in emergency response and the volume of guests,” said Diane McBride, Frisco’s director of recreation and assistant town manager. “All of that came into play when we made that decision, and a lot of those same concerns were raised when Dillon proposed having the fireworks.”

In early April, Dillon began discussions to step in and fill the void. Despite some concerns from staff — including Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous — that the town may not have sufficient time to plan the event, nor the resources to effectively police the event, the town was still pushing forward with the show until the rejection at the DRReC meeting last week.

In addition to any fireworks over the reservoir getting axed, Keystone Resort also decided not to incorporate a fireworks display as part of their Fourth of July celebrations this year.

“After consideration of a number of factors, we are confident Keystone will continue to serve as an ideal location for an Independence Day celebration,” said Geoff Buchheister, vice president and general manager for Keystone Resort. “Keystone is proud to offer families and guests a variety of activities and events to enjoy the Fourth of July holiday.”

Regardless of the lack of fireworks in the county this year, officials are optimistic that there’s still plenty of programming to draw visitors to the area and give locals a fun holiday. Among the most notable Fourth of July events this year are a performance from the National Repertory Orchestra at Rainbow Park in Silverthorne in the morning, live music and parades throughout the day in Frisco and Breckenridge, and a performance by The Air Force Academy Band at Dillon Amphitheater to close out the night.

Anderson said that while the town won’t be doing fireworks this Fourth of July, that doesn’t necessarily mean fireworks won’t be returning sometime in the future.

“In general the community is reevaluating how we manage big events collectively, and that’s going to be a process that each entity is going to need to come together to find where those parameters are and what works,” said Anderson. “The council needs to have a discussion and consider whether fireworks for Labor Day is a direction they’d want to go, knowing it’s a tough fire time of year, or looking at doing something at another time of year like the Lighting of Dillon. But fireworks are not off the table in Dillon.”