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City getting partial refund for July 4 fireworks

The Fourth fireworks flop is going to be OK after all.

High Tech Special Events isn’t going to hold the city of Bartlett to all of its $18,000 price tag for the hour delay and abbreviated display during the city’s annual fireworks festival. Instead, the company’s owner, Randy Blast, is cutting $3,500 from its bill. bartlett express web

“It was just not one of his better shows,” said Debbie Morrison, the city’s director of community relations. “We only got to see about 90 percent of it.”

Morrison said that nearly a week after the 9:30 p.m. July 3 fireworks were supposed to go off, no one is sure what caused the problem.

“He has no clue,” said Morrison of Blast. “He just kept playing with the wires until it finally ignited.”

More than 15,000 people had gathered for the festivities. Two bands had played for hours leading up to the event. Food vendors, inflatable games and classic cars lined Appling Road. And the weather was just perfect for the event, said Morrison.

“And then it turned into the worst Fourth of July I’d ever had,” she said. “I was in the office the next morning writing up press releases and apologizing for it, even though it wasn’t our fault.”

Morrison said Blast suspects dew on the wires might have had something to do with the fireworks not rocketing into the night sky until 10:30 p.m. Blast had sent someone back to his business location in Memphis for parts. But by the time he had arrived, the crews had the problems worked out.

Thousands of people already had left, too.

“Some people were patient with us, and some were not so patient with us,” said Morrison. “I hate that it happened.”

The hour delay was compounded by the fact that the city had a hard time letting people know what was going on. All of the cell towers were jammed, making Facebook and Twitter posts, text messages and even phone calls impossible during that time, said Morrison. The city resorted to its 2-way radios and word of mouth to try to keep the crowd updated.

“We learned a lot as a city that day,” said Morrison. “We need to get better communications for this type of event, as we do with emergencies.”

Even those who stayed were short-changed a bit. Because technical problems resurfaced at the end of the display, the fireworks specialists were not able to show the grand finale. That — plus the $1,400 in overtime the city spent on parks and recreation, police, fire and public works employees — is the reason the vendor is issuing the credit, said Morrison.

But she also said that High Tech has been hosting the city’s fireworks for the past 10 years and is in the middle of a four-year contract. Nothing like this has happened in the past, she said.

“He usually does a great job,” said Morrison, who also said that Blast has offered to show the finale at the end of the Bartlett Festival “as a good gesture.”

“We’re still working out the details,” she said.

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