O ne week after the town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony last year, Estes Park had its annual fireworks celebration.
That’s how skittish cities and towns were about fireworks at this time last year. Some of them shot them off when the ground had already frosted over. It was so dry, Gov. John Hickenlooper banned all fireworks, even displays, unless the county sheriff gave written permission.
Weld Sheriff John Cooke did give permission to the Greeley Stampede, but many cities either canceled their displays or postponed them. Fort Collins had its display when the leaves were changing and, in Estes Park’s case, the leaves were long gone.
This year it’s still dry, though that dryness isn’t universal throughout the state, and that’s why Hickenlooper’s essentially left it up to those in charge of the displays, said Eric Brown, spokesman for the governor.
That makes things a little more confusing if you’re searching for a display to go watch. Those that have canceled this year include Castle Rock, Monument and Highlands Ranch.
“It does make it kind of difficult,” said Micki Trost, spokeswoman for the Colorado Office of Emergency Management. “Really, you have to touch base with the county or city you are going to be in. Some cities may have different restrictions than their county.”
It appears all fireworks displays in northern Colorado are a go, and that includes Estes Park. Last year, Estes Park dealt with a couple wildfires in its area, including one, the Fern Lake fire in Rocky Mountain National Park, that was burning when the fireworks were shot off in late November. Despite another fire in the park this year, the moisture is much better.
“Conditions are nowhere near what they were last year,” said Kate Rusch, spokeswoman for the town of Estes. “We’re monitoring it, but we feel the conditions are fine.”
The fireworks are shot over Lake Estes, after all.
The locations of the displays seem to be one of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not to have them this year. The Greeley Stampede, for instance, never really discussed canceling its display this year, even when other cities in Denver and areas such as Castle Rock have already decided not to have them.
“We’re not doing them in an area where there’s a potential fire hazard,” said Andy Segal, spokesman for the Stampede. “We can provide entertainment that people in their own backyards can’t in a safe environment.”
There was no discussion about canceling the display at the Greeley Country Club, as well, said Amy Fiedler, membership marketing coordinator. The golf course is almost always lush and in little danger of catching fire.
“We empathize with what’s going on with the Front Range,” Fiedler said. “But we shoot them off right on our course, over a pond.”
Windsor enjoyed a larger crowd than usual last year for its display over Windsor Lake. That may not happen this year because Fort Collins will hold its display as planned.
“Barring any kind of restrictions on fireworks, we are planning one of the best fireworks productions in northern Colorado,” said Carrie Knight, Windsor’s Art & Heritage manager.
When Fort Collins canceled its display last year, it was the first time that anyone could remember.
The display is in City Park, an irrigated park, and over Lake Sheldon, so fire shouldn’t be an issue, said John Litel, spokesman for the city of Fort Collins. It was historically dry last year, and the two nearby fires up the Poudre Canyon raised sensitivity levels. But the September display worked well anyway, as they were shot off during the 100th year celebration for City Park.
“It was kind of neat, we just rolled it all into one,” Litel said. “I was out in shorts. It was a perfect day.”
Even so, Fort Collins plans to have a big celebration today. There’s a parade for the first time, and the city’s planning on 30,000 people watching a nice display.
“I think the community’s really looking forward to it,” he said.
Windsor Now! reporter Jason Pohl contributed to this report.