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3:18 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

City says 'fireworks are a go'

PRESCOTT  – The night skies will come alive in Prescott again this year, when the city brings fireworks back to its Fourth of July celebration.

After a year's hiatus, the annual fireworks display will return to Prescott – albeit in a new location. City officials reported earlier this summer that the fireworks will move to Pioneer Park this July 4, after taking place at Prescott High School since the early 1980s.

The 2002 celebration went without fireworks altogether, when the city canceled its display because of extreme fire danger.

But this year, city officials say the display will almost certainly go on.

"The fireworks are a go," said Prescott Fire Department Battalion Chief Don Devendorf at a recent taping of the Prescott Today television show. And not only will the city provide a fireworks exhibition that officials say will be the largest in the area, but the event will include a host of other activities as well.

Becky Garvin, city recreation coordinator, reported this week that the fireworks display will cap off a full slate of activities at Pioneer Park Friday, including an inflatable carnival, water slides, a rock and roll band, pony rides, old-fashioned games for kids, a barbecue and a raffle.

"We're trying to get the whole family to come," Garvin said. "It will be a real big, fun event. And we're planning the biggest and best fireworks display in the area."

The city's July 4 party will begin at 4 p.m., with the inflatable carnival, and will culminate with the fireworks display at about 9 p.m.

Those who gather at Pioneer Park will have a variety of activities to choose from, including:

• The inflatable carnival with bouncing toys, water slides, spin rides, a train, and carnival games from 4 to 10 p.m. A $10 armband will buy unlimited rides, or people may buy individual ride tickets for $2 each.

• Local rock and roll band, The Mix, performing from 5 to 8:50 p.m.

• A barbecue offering hamburgers, hotdogs, watermelon slices, water, and soft drinks – all for $1 each.

• Kettle corn, funnel cakes and other vendors.

• Clowns, face-painters, and air-brush tattoos.

• A raffle offering a variety of summer-fun items.

• Kite-flying events.

• Watermelon-eating and seed-spitting contests, sack races, and tortilla-throwing games.

While there will be a charge for the carnival and barbecue, Garvin said the fireworks, music, and many of the other activities are free to anyone who attends.

"It will be family fun that is affordable," she said.

And because of the size of the Pioneer Park complex, Garvin said parking should not be a problem. Along with the hundreds of parking spaces at the park itself, the nearby Arizona Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Division parking lots will be available for overflow parking.

The city will close off Commerce Drive by 8:30 p.m., so anyone planning to attend the fireworks should be parked before that time.

"We feel it is going to be a real good area," Garvin said of the Pioneer Park site. "The fire department will be on hand, and they have cleared some of the brush away."

According to Devendorf, the only foreseeable reason that the city might cancel the show is if the shells or the canons malfunctioned and caused fires in the brush around Pioneer Park, as they did in 1997, when the city first tried the site for its fireworks display.

Faulty fireworks that did not reach the necessary height caused a number of small fires that year. When the city canceled the rest of the display because of the fires, traffic became a problem as the hundreds of cars at the park tried to leave at once.

But city officials say the traffic situation has improved dramatically in recent years. Since 1997, the new Pioneer Parkway opened, which provided a second way to get into the park. In addition, the city completed its Willow Creek Road widening project, which greatly expanded the capacity on that main artery.

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com