The Rocket’s Red Glare

July 2, 2013

By: Christina Lords | Post Register

17,261.

That’s how many firework shells will burst into the Idaho Falls sky to celebrate America’s birthday during Melaleuca’s Freedom Celebration on the Fourth of July.

108:

That’s how many more shells will be used this year than the 2012 celebration.

9.6:

That’s how many shells the show will average per second during the 31-minute display.

By those figures, the 21st annual event is the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River, Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said. The show is expected to start at 10 p.m. Thursday.

“For anyone who’s seen this show in Idaho Falls, it’s pretty hard to keep them out of town (the next year),” he said.

Events including the FireKracker 5K Fun Run, Independence Day Parade and the Liberty Festival on the Falls will take place throughout the day. More than 20 food vendors and 50 businesses (including arts and crafts vendors) will showcase their products at the festival. The festival features live music, games, and pie and watermelon eating contests.

Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Kerry McCullough said the day is a major economic force in the area. Hotels get reservations for the next year the day after the Fourth, she said. One reason why people travel for the display has been the sheer size of the show, as well as the addition of the Liberty Festival, she said.

“People were going home between events and they were just waiting,” she said. “This gives the public something to do in between the parade and the fireworks. They were already there staking out their spots along the greenbelt anyway, so we decided to entertain them and give them food (to purchase).”

VanderSloot estimates more than 150,000 people from Idaho Falls and beyond are expected for this year’s fireworks, nearly tripling the town’s population for the evening.

Melaleuca adds to the show’s budget each year to remain the largest show around, VanderSloot said.

The show is a tribute to those who have served in the country’s military, he said. He hopes the show will inspire residents to call the veterans they know to say thanks.

“Every city ought to invest in that day,” VanderSloot said. “We believe that we should pay tribute to those who gave us a free country. We take for granted our freedoms. We take for granted (this) great country we live in.”

The event is free and open to the public. The soundtrack to the show will be broadcast live on KLCE Classy 97.3 FM. The show’s soundtrack will feature narration and a mix of musical genres, including patriotic songs, pop, rock and country. Spectators should bring their own radios to ensure they get the full experience, VanderSloot said.

VanderSloot was hesitant to put a price tag on the event.

“When people ask what a show like this costs,” VanderSloot said in a news release, “our answer is, ‘it costs absolutely nothing compared to the price (soldiers) paid for our freedom.’ ”

The show uses new technology to design and choreograph the fireworks. A computer program synchronizes each shell with the musical score.

This year’s show contains new special effects, such as the “rapid-fire peacock red go-getter.” The go-getter fires 540 shots in eight seconds across the horizon in a zipping pattern.

The show’s setup takes six days and will be completed by Western Display Fireworks. The company annually produces 300 fireworks shows across the country.

An outdoor banquet, entertainment by the Freedom Symphony, other local musicians and speeches by Idaho dignitaries will take place at a special event (tickets required) that begins at 7 p.m. at the Idaho Falls Shilo Inn, 780 Lindsay Blvd. Tickets to the banquet and symphony are available for purchase at the Melaleuca store at 330 N. Capital Ave. in Idaho Falls. Tickets are $28 for adults and $15 for children.

“It’s just been really fun to see things all come together,” VanderSloot said of the fireworks display. “When we do it right, and the message is right, there’s not a dry eye in the place.”

Reporter Christina Lords can be reached at 542-6762.

Schedule of events

7:15 a.m. — FireKracker 5K Fun Run, Tautphaus Park

9 a.m. — Independence Day Parade, Fourth Street to South Boulevard to Tautphaus Park

Noon to 10 p.m. — Liberty Festival on the Falls, Memorial Drive

6 p.m. — Idaho Falls Chukars vs. Grand Junction Rockies, Melaleuca Field

10 p.m. — Melaleuca Freedom Celebration fireworks display, Idaho Falls greenbelt

Information on Melaleuca’s 21st annual Freedom Celebration: www.freedomcelebration.com

Parking restrictions

Memorial Drive — from Broadway to E Street — will be closed beginning at 6 a.m. Wednesday.

There will be no parking permitted on Riverside Drive from E Street to U.S. Highway 20 on Thursday. A fire lane will be established for emergency vehicles only.

No parking will be allowed around Civitan Park 48 hours prior to the fireworks.

No parking will be allowed on West Elva Street from Riverside Drive to Jefferson Avenue 48 hours prior to the fireworks.

Jefferson Avenue and I Street will be closed from Elva Street to Temple Place to all motorized vehicle traffic at 6 p.m. Thursday.

River Parkway will be closed today through July 5.

Ash Street will be closed July 4 after the parade. Bicycle traffic is encouraged.

No parking is allowed on the grassy areas of U.S. Highway 20 at any time.

E Street will be used for eastbound traffic only after the fireworks.

U.S. Highway 20 exits to Lindsay Boulevard, Riverside Drive and Science Center Drive will be closed immediately after the fireworks display to break up traffic congestion. Northbound traffic will be routed to the Lewisville Highway exit before being allowed to turn back to Idaho Falls.

The northbound ramp at Exit 119 on Interstate 15 will be closed at 10 p.m. Thursday.

All streets will open for normal use Friday morning.

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