COLUMBIA — New restrictions on the size of fireworks at "Fire in the Sky" will slightly alter a display that has been a Columbia tradition for 60 years.
Because of the smaller safety zone, fireworks shells will be restricted to 2 inches, compared with shells that ranged from 6 to 8 inches for previous "Fire in the Sky" shows, said Karen Ramey, superintendent for the Parks and Recreation Department.
Smaller fireworks don't mean a smaller show, though — just different choreography.
The "Fire in the Sky" show's fireworks are set off in synchronization with music, and large fireworks can go only one at a time. Small fireworks, on the other hand, can be set off at a greater frequency, and they still reach up to 200 feet, Ramey said.
The "Fire in the Sky" celebration started 60 years ago in Cosmo Park and moved to Memorial Stadium when the turnout became too high for the former venue, Ramey said.
MU Athletics Department spokesman Chad Moller said that while the university plans to finish replacing turf at Faurot Field in time for its June football camps, other changes, such as refurbishment of the Touchdown Terrace seating section in the south end zone, won't be finished until late July.
"Fire in the Sky" coordinators started planning for a new location in February.
Ramey said other venues such as Cosmo Park, Stephens Lake Park, Midway Travel Plaza and the fairground were suggested when she found out Memorial Stadium was unavailable, but none of them had the parking capacity.
The fireworks display has previously drawn 15,000 to 20,000 people to the stadium, with thousands more in parking lots for miles around, she said.
"Fire in the Sky" also took place in downtown in the early 2000s to accommodate the construction of Mizzou Arena, Ramey said. Since then, the city has expanded parking and has hosted large events such as the Roots 'N' Blues 'N' BBQ Festival.
"We have a pretty good understanding of how to do events in downtown Columbia now," Ramey said.
Fireworks will be shot from the top of the parking garage at Sixth and Cherry streets, and streets around the garage will close from 8:30 p.m. until the end of the display.
The event will also close Fourth Street between Cherry and Locust streets for the evening to accommodate children’s activities in Flat Branch Park. There will be a main stage in Peace Park for other entertainment.
Ramey said the new location has many advantages. There are multiple ways to get in and out of downtown, instead of a single entrance and exit. The move also could help local bars and restaurants on what is usually a slow night.
"Downtown really has little business on the Fourth of July,” Ramey said. "Some of the restaurant owners I've already talked to have said that they're excited for people to be downtown. It will definitely be an increase in business for The District merchants."
As for tailgating, a city open container law prohibits drinking on the streets, Ramey said. However, people can go to a bar or restaurant if they want a drink, she said.
People interested in volunteering for "Fire in the Sky" can call Parks and Recreation at 874-7460 or visit the city's website at gocolumbiamo.com.