Cover Story: Charlotte's 4th of July - | WBTV Charlotte

Cover Story: Charlotte's 4th of July

By Jeff Atkinson - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV)- Red, White, and Boom almost went - poof.  Disappeared.

But now a half decade after the threat preparations are under way for the Queen City's patriotic party.

It's been four years since Charlotte nearly lost its downtown fireworks celebration.

Today, the group that took it over - thinking it would be temporary - prepares to mark its fifth year and this year promises to be bigger and better.

When WBT's Skyshow left town the city really had to do some scrambling.  And they didn't have a lot of time to put a show together.

Skyshow had been a fixture in Charlotte for 30 years and billed itself as the biggest fireworks in the southeast.

Now Charlotte had to come up with a new name and a new venue.

It was a near melee in Center City after Skyshow 2005 that helped drive the event's organizers away.

In the final year WBT sponsored the uptown fireworks show it cost the radio station about $100 thousand in security costs, pyrotechnics and to stage the event.

Less than two months before the 2006 show the station announced it was moving to Knights Stadium.

"It's a change, nobody likes change, I don't like change. It'd be fun to have it uptown but somebody has to pay for that," said station manager Rick Jackson in May 2006.

Skyshow's popularity lay in the fact the pyrotechnics went off from a parking deck in the heart of Center City.

But it also drove up costs.  A parking deck had to be rented for a week and fencing installed in the fallout zone.

Robert Krumbine, Chief Creative Officer for Charlotte Center City Partners remembers the uptown booster group getting a call from the mayor saying they had to come up with a show fast.

"We really thought we were kinda filling a gap.. dealing with something that had to happen," said Krumbine.  "Here were are it's now become an event that's on our books that we look forward to every year."

To significantly cut costs Center City Partners moved the pyrotechnics display to the roof of a parking deck on the campus of Central Piedmont Community College.

They added a free - family fun fest to the bill - staged it at the county's Memorial Stadium, got sponsors and partnerships to pony up and the whole event now costs $50,000.

Says Krumbine, no city or tax dollars involved.  "We've designed a show that can be pretty much seen by the majority of people in the city."

An estimated 200,000 people make it part of their 4th of July tradition to see the show.

Best seats in the house are going to be east of Center City.  Views from the west side are blocked by the uptown skyscrapers.

If you plan to get up close, you'll need to stay out of the red zone - the fallout zone.  Streets are blocked in and around the CPCC campus (Kings Drive - Charlottetowne Avenue) starting at 8:30pm an hour before show time.

And if you go downtown to watch the fireworks - remember the words of the event organizer, Robert Krumbine.  "Be prepared for a little sitting in traffic because we've got to move a lot of people out of here. It's not like a football game. We got a lot of people come from different angles. But if you can bear through that.. heck, it's a lot of fun!"

Now the event is in its 5th year and organizers say it rivals Skyshow as the biggest fireworks in the southeast.

Is there a chance they'll take it back to Center City?  There are some who'd like to see that.  It does drive up the costs considerably.

If in the future the Charlotte Knights get a stadium built in Center City there's talk of combining Red, White and Boom with Skyshow.

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