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Fireworks also hit by rising prices, supply chain problems

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Shake the Lake fireworks

Fireworks light up the sky over Lake Monona and the state Capitol during the Shake the Lake festival in 2018.

The air space above Blackhawk Country Club in the village of Shorewood Hills will be filled with exploding, colorful bursts when the annual fireworks show begins on the evening of the July 4 holiday.

The ground display, however, won't be as large as in 2019, the last year in which a full show was held, due to the pandemic.

Just like other products, from televisions to automobiles, lumber to toilet paper and hot sauce to cream cheese, the availability and price of fireworks  in high demand at this time of the year — are affected by supply chain issues.

"We haven't been impacted too badly, but we have heard from our distributor that it will be an issue," said David Sykes, administrative services manager and deputy clerk for the village, bounded by University Avenue, Lake Mendota and UW-Madison. "We got our order in early, so we got nearly every thing we needed."

Fireworks have been a community tradition in Shorewood Hills since the 1950s, when they were launched on the grounds of its elementary school before moving in the late 1960s to the golf course. There were no fireworks of any kind in 2020 and only aerial displays in 2021, in an effort to reduce crowding, Sykes said.

The Shorewood Hills EMS and Fire Association buys the fireworks from Spielbauer Fireworks, a third-generation fireworks company in Green Bay. This year's cost for Shorewood Hills increased by about 15%, Sykes said, with some ground fireworks supplies unavailable.

"To date, we've received about 20-25% of what we should've gotten primarily from China," said Patrick Spielbauer, president of Spielbauer Fireworks. "We have inflation, so there's rising costs associated with everything; with raw materials, labor, shipping and insurance. But since COVID, the supply chain has been really disrupted and the shipping from China has been trickling over."

According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, consumers will spend about $2.3 billion on fireworks this Fourth of July. Spending on fireworks has been increasing for over two decades.

In 2000, fireworks spending was about $610 million. That number grew to $952 million in 2010 and to nearly $1.4 billion in 2019. Spending grew to over $2.1 billion in 2020, even as many events were canceled. Consumers, however, increased their spending on fireworks by 90% over 2019 to $1.9 billion. In 2021, spending grew to nearly $2.5 billion, according to the APA.

When it comes to the big displays, Spielbauer said the typical price he pays is about $13,000. But, this year, that cost has risen to $50,000.

"We're fighting the rising costs, which means we don't get enough of each dollar," Spielbauer said. "We are fighting supply chain issues, which means we're not going to have the variety that we normally have."

Overall, costs are up 35% across the fireworks industry, although the APA estimates more than 16,000 fireworks displays will be produced this Fourth of July.

One of the largest in southern Wisconsin is the Festival Foods Lights the Isthmus Independence Day fireworks show at Breese Stevens Field on July 2.

The second annual fireworks show is a ticketed event featuring local bands, food, beverages and a fireworks display launched from the Brearly Street end zone, behind the stage, at the landmark stadium on the 900 block of East Washington Avenue. But instead of cutting back, Tristan Straub, general manager of Big Top Events, which is hosting the event, said they are doubling the number of explosions for this year's 20-minute show.

"We’ve just more or less found a away," Straub said. "We needed to do it a little bit bigger."

In Lake Mills, the Fourth of July fireworks show on the city's east side is paid for through community donations. John Black, who owns a downtown jewelry store in the Jefferson County city and helps organize the show, said working early with their longtime vendor, Five Star Fireworks in Oconomowoc, means that those viewing the event won't notice a difference. However, the cost for this year's show has increased by about 15%.

That's essentially the same story for Fire on the River, a longtime fireworks show that will be shot off July 2 over the Wisconsin River in Sauk City.

"There was an uptick, but we thought it was a reasonable uptick," Paul Fiscus, who helps organize the longtime event, said of the price increase. "You just sharpen your pencil and hope for more sponsorships."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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