Organizers of La Jolla’s annually imperiled Fourth of July fireworks display at Scripps Park once again say the event may not take place, though this year’s cancellation seems more certain — unless swift and strong financial and organizational intervention is offered.
Deborah Marengo, co-founder and director of the La Jolla Community Fireworks Foundation (LJCFF), which produces the annual event, said she usually has about two-thirds of the money needed for the event by this time of year, after which she puts out a call for the remainder of funds. She maintained there is little chance that this year’s $30,000 pyrotechnics show will take place.
“I’ve not raised a dime from the community,” Marengo told
La Jolla Light
“No one has come forward with any of my requests for donations this year.”
Marengo said the only donation she’s received is $1,500 from attorney Robert Howard, who the LJCFF secured pro bono to fight an ongoing environmental challenge to the event.
Marengo said she still needs to secure permits for public safety and park usage, and isn’t sure whether equipment staging in Scripps Park for the new lifeguard tower under construction at La Jolla Cove will be relocated in time for the event.
“I would at least, by now, have enough money to 1) pay for permits and 2) to sign the contract for the pyrotechnics, which is pretty hefty,” she said. “I can’t put myself at risk signing contracts for the community when they’re not willing to come forward with any money. … The attitude is like, ‘Well, we’re sorry to see it go,’ so I guess it’s not that important to them. It’s sad, but that’s the case.”
The event was founded and sponsored for 25 years by restaurateur George Hauer (of George’s at the Cove), who passed it off to LJCFF five years ago (which then included La Jolla tech consultant Adam Harris).
Mark Dibella, managing director of La Valencia Hotel, said the LJCFF had an additional commitment of $2,500 in annual event sponsorship this year from the hotel.
“I believe locals will be very ticked off knowing it’s not going to happen, but probably even more ticked off knowing that they didn’t even have a chance to jump in and help it,” Dibella said of the event, for which people book rooms at La Valencia and other hotels along the La Jolla’s coast, including the Grande Colonial and La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.
“We all get a view of the fireworks, and we’re all packed,” Dibella said, adding that he hopes La Jollans will rally to the cause and help save the event in the 11th hour, as arts patrons did recently to save the San Diego Opera.
Dibella is taking the lead to assure next year’s fireworks proceed by applying for a grant from the San Diego Tourism Authority (SDTA). He said he reached out to the SDTA to fund this year’s event, though it was too late.
“They work six to 12 months out,” Dibella said, noting that SDTA provides grant money for events such as the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and Comic-Con that have a positive financial impact on hotels and restaurants.