100,000 expected for July 4 blowout

Idaho Falls Post Register
Printed on: July 03, 2012
By Clark Corbin

The two magic numbers for fireworks fans this Independence Day are 571 and 17,153.

First up is 571. That’s the number of additional fireworks shells that organizers from Melaleuca said they ordered to top last year’s Melaleuca Freedom Celebration.

That brings us to 17,153, the total number of shells included in this year’s 31-minute blowout.

Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said those numbers add up to total the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River. Residents may judge for themselves when fireworks illuminate the night sky over the Snake River around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

“I don’t like to overpromise; I don’t want to create an expectation,” VanderSloot said. “But if they come with any expectation, I suspect this show will exceed it.”

The fireworks show serves as the icing on the cake for this year’s daylong festivities.

To help America celebrate her birthday, a 5-kilometer fun run, the city’s traditional parade, the downtown Liberty Festival on the Falls and a minor league baseball game also have been scheduled.

Kerry McCullough of the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce said fellow event organizers are expecting a large turnout. If that’s the case, McCullough thinks they will be impressed.

The 9 a.m. parade will feature 106 entrants.

Bands are set to perform along Memorial Drive in the afternoon and evening.

And sand volleyball, a three-on-three basketball challenge and video game tournaments beginning at noon have been added to the downtown Liberty Festival schedule in an attempt to appeal to teens and young adults.

“With it being on Wednesday and with nice weather, we anticipate actually having more locals stay here instead of going somewhere else,” McCullough said. “We think they will enjoy all of the activities we have here in Idaho Falls.”

All that interest is bound to lead to traffic delays, detours, road closures and a fender bender or two. Sgt. Dave Frei of the Idaho Falls Police Department said officers are bracing for 100,000 people to attend the events, which is nearly double the city’s population.

To handle the influx of revelers, Frei said, cops will work extra shifts. Police also have partnered with troopers from the Idaho State Police and will enlist the services of the volunteer Citizens Watch Patrol.

Frei encourages families to remain patient and flexible and to consider car pooling or leaving extra time to get to and from their July 4 destinations.

“Just remember, the closer they park to the greenbelt, the longer they should expect to be delayed after fireworks,” Frei said.

Speaking of fireworks, VanderSloot asked families to listen to the patriotic program that will be broadcast on KLCE Classy 97.3 FM in concert with the pyrotechnics. He said that program’s message gets at the heart of why organizers put so much effort into Independence Day celebrations.

“We take our freedoms for granted when, in reality, they came at a horrible price,” VanderSloot said. “This is about taking 31 minutes out to say thank you to those who paid that price.”