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Prescott to move July 4th fireworks to Watson Lake
New venue will allow larger fireworks than downtown location

Bright colors rain down from the sky while the Fourth of July fireworks erupt over Pioneer Park in Prescott. (Courier file photo)

Bright colors rain down from the sky while the Fourth of July fireworks erupt over Pioneer Park in Prescott. (Courier file photo)

A return to the large-shell fireworks that were typical in Prescott’s pre-2016 July 4 celebrations will be just one of the expected benefits of a venue move to Watson Lake Park.

In unanimous action Tuesday, March 12, the Prescott City Council approved a contract with Eagle Management and Events that will move the community’s 2019 Independence Day event from downtown Prescott to the shores of Watson Lake.

Recreation Services Director Joe Baynes explained that the downtown Prescott location of the past three years had required a significant decrease in the size of fireworks shells because of a limited safe “fallout zone” for embers.

And even with the smaller 3-inch-shell size, fire concerns caused the cancellation of two of the past three July 4 fireworks displays planned in downtown.

Baynes said the water venue at Watson Lake would allow the event promoter to go back to the 8-inch-shell fireworks that had been featured in the city’s earlier July 4 celebrations at Pioneer Park.

Baynes led off the discussion by pointing out that budget constraints in 2015 had caused the city to seek private companies to put on the annual July 4 event. For years prior to that, the city had largely paid for the event that took place at Pioneer Park in northeast Prescott.

In 2016, the July 4 event contract called for a move from Pioneer Park to the Mile High Middle School track/football field downtown.

The idea at the time was that the downtown venue would benefit local businesses with additional foot traffic.

While noting that the downtown venue had indeed benefited businesses, Baynes said, “There were some downfalls to the location,” including the ongoing concerns about wildfire.

“Consequently, in 2017 and 2018, the fireworks portion was canceled,” Bayne added.

After the 2018 cancelation, the city assembled a committee to look into a new site for the Independence Day event.

In December 2018, the city advertised statewide for interested promotion companies, and reportedly received just one proposal in February – from local company Eagle Management and Events, LLC.

The event proposed by Eagle Management and Events includes a kids zone, a stage with live bands, food vendors, hydration stations, a disk golf tournament, liquor sales, and a fireworks display launched either from a barge in the lake or from the shore.

The goal is to make the celebration “family-friendly,” Baynes said, noting that the event would have an affordable $5 entry fee, and a $15 fee for wristbands for use of the water slides and inflatable bounce houses.

In addition, he said, attendees would not be allowed to bring in their own coolers.

City Councilman Steve Sischka – while noting that most people seem to like the Watson Lake venue — said one question consistently arises. “What about parking?” he asked.

Baynes said existing parking at the Watson Lake Park would accommodate about 8,000 people (5,000 cars). He said the total includes the parking areas at the boat docks, as well some areas that can be temporarily converted to parking areas.

In addition, Baynes noted that the city controls Highway 89 in front of the Watson Lake Park, and could opt to close down one side of the highway to accommodate parking.

More discussion is expected in the coming months to refine the parking and traffic plan for the Watson Lake venue, Baynes said.

Prescott Fire Marshal Don Devendorf added that the Prescott Fire Department also would continue to work on the plans for fire suppression during the fireworks display.

Long-time Councilman and Prescott native Steve Blair said Watson Lake was traditionally used as a July 4 location. “That’s where it started, many years ago,” he said.

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