COLUMBIA — Despite near record-breaking high temperatures and a new location, the city's fireworks display attracted more than 20,000 people Wednesday night — about the same number as in previous years.
Fire in the Sky, a 60-year Independence Day tradition, had been hosted at Memorial Stadium for the last 10 years, first in the parking lot and then in the stadium. Before that, it was at Cosmopolitan Park.
In June, Columbia officials decided to move the show downtown after talks began for renovating Memorial Stadium. Onlookers Wednesday gathered at Flat Branch Pub & Brewing, in the old Osco drug store parking lot, Peace Park, several bars along Ninth Street and atop the city parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets.
Karen Chandler, superintendent of recreation and community programs at the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, said this year's show was a success based on the large turnout.
Chandler said that this year, the city was able to ignite more fireworks, though it spent the same amount of money this year as in 2011 — $30,000. That's because the display used smaller shells in the smaller venue to comply with safety zone laws and regulations for commercial fireworks displays.
"Even though this is our 60th year doing the show, it’s the first year in Peace Park," she said. "So we basically had to start over. We’re still getting feedback, and it usually takes three to four years to get it down."
Meanwhile, though there were many people downtown, traffic cleared in 20 minutes after the show.
“The stadium traffic would have been worse,” Chandler said.
Matt Istwan, a managing partner of Déjà Vu Comedy Club, said that overall, patrons of the bar who gathered in the parking lot seemed to enjoy the show.
"We expected it to be not as good as last year's show, but considering the tempered expectations, we got good responses," Istwan said.
Paul Huesgen, Flat Branch Pub & Brewing manager, said he thought the show was great and was happy to hear that the city plans to hold Fire in the Sky downtown again next year.
"For the actual show, we had the best seats," Huesgen said. "They were right in front of us."
Istwan suggested one improvement, however.
"Everything else the same and ten degrees (cooler), and it would have been a bigger turnout."
Supervising editor is Jake Kreinberg.