Community Services director reports to council on July 4 show cancellation
BY CHARLES M. KELLY
Dan Huncke, head of the Community Services (Recreation) Department, told the City Council this week that Avalon would probably not work with the same fireworks company again.
“This has to be the final straw with them,” Huncke said.
Visitors and residents were disappointed at the same-day cancellation of the Fourth of July Fireworks Show. Social media was alight with angry comments from disappointed and confused individuals.
(Huncke provided the Islander with a writeen statement on the cancellation. See page 4)
Dan Huncke explained the events as he understood them at the Tuesday, July 6, council meeting. He did not identify any person or business entity by name during the meeting.
Huncke said he rolled out of bed about 5:45 a.m. He had received a mail from the vendor at about 5:30 a.m.
Huncke read the email to the council.
“Gentlemen, I’m sick. We’ve had a late cancellation due to a crew walk off and an inability to reload the barge on time for the show tonight.
“I am beside myself. I cannot get the barge reloaded. This all transpired since 5 p.m. last night.” (This would have been Saturday, July 3.)
“I cannot get the barge up for the show. We tried all night. It’s too late to reload. I can’t even move heaven and Earth to make this happen now.
“It’s been a frantic night and I tried everything. I can’t make it happen. Some fire inspector made life a living hell for the pyrobarge team and we all had to cancel even Malibu, our two biggest shows.”
Huncke said he then called the man who sent the email. Huncke was told there wasn’t time. Huckce was told it would take eight to 10 ours to reload the barge and another four hours to get it over to the Island and get in position.
Huncke was told the business did everything they could to get an operator. (The person with the license to shoot the fireworks.)
Huncke told the council he did not know the details of why the Malibu operator was not available.
Huncke said he called Fire Chief Michael Alegria. Fire Chief Alegria told him that the Two Harbors fireworks show did occur.
Huncke told the council that there was some contention over the barge for the Two Harbors show before it left port.
Huncke said the permit for that show didn’t match the rockets, which was apparently part of the issue. Huncke said that issue was resolved enough that the barge for the Two Harbors show was allowed to go.
Huncke said the issue was resolved enough that the Two Harbors Show was allowed to go.
Huncke said the fireworks operator was told that the Avalon paperwork better be “spot on.”
“The Two Harbors Show did go off,” Huncke said.
Huncke said his next call was to the operator. He did not hear back from her until 10:30 a.m., Sunday, July 4.
Huncke said he then called the subcontractor that put in the permit.
According to Huncke, the subcontractor told him that the fire inspector seemed to come down hard for some reason.
The operator got back to Huncke with a voice mail in which she said conditions weren’t safe and there wasn’t enough time. According to Huncke’s summary of the message, they walked off the job.
According to Huncke, they learned later that a couple of rockets may have misfired during the Two Harbors Show and that the operator didn’t feel comfortable at all about doing the Avalon show.
According to Huncke, the permit wasn’t in order, she knew there some possibly faulty rockets and the operator was short staffed.
Huncke obtained a text that the operator sent to the vendor. He read the text from his cell phone to the council:
“It has come to my attention from the LA chief that inspected my boat that my paperwork was way off. It also stated that if my Avalon paperwork is off, which it is, there will be legal percussions.
“Therefore I’m pulling my crew and myself from the show. Find another operator. About to dock.”
Huncke told the council that the plan was that they would get back into at about 2 p.m., reload for Avalon and then go out later to be in Avalon.
“They didn’t have a crew to work with,” Huncke said.
Huncke said his next call was to a competing company as a last ditch effort to see if an operator was available.
He then reached out to the city manager. The plan at that point was to issue a brief statement about the cancellation being out of the city’s control.
(Huncke didn’t read the statement to the council. The initial announcement on Facebook said: “Attention!!! A message from city’s Community Services Department. Due to unforeseeable circumstances, tonights fireworks show has been cancelled. We apologize for short notice.”)
Huncke said he reached out to the vendor to get an official statement. As of the council meeting, he had not received one.
However, Huncke said he got verbal reassurances that the Johnsons would be reimbursed. (Gary and Kellie Johnson sponsored the Fourth of July show.)
Fire Chief Alegria said, in part, that with illegal fireworks in Los Angeles, the authorities were cracking down.
He said there was a redevelopment of the way fireworks were being done on barges. He said Avalon might have to go over a couple of days before events to make sure everything was good.
Huncke returned to the podium. He said he has worked with fireworks shows in other cities. He said the fire inspector generally comes hours before the show.
“If there’s something woefully wrong, there’s not much time to make changes,” Huncke said.
City Manager Denise Radde said if there was consensus, she could bring back a resolution to the council to approve another business to do the Labor Day show.
Council Member Cinde MacGugan-Cassidy thatnked city staff. “None of this was easy for any city staff member or any council member or anyone,” she said.
She said she felt sad for the Public Works crews who were “accosted” by members of the public.
“I’m sorry that this happened to our community, but circumstances beyond our control,” Cassidy said.
Mayor Anni Marshall said Gary Johnson had indicated he was willing to continue to support the show.
Huncke said that there was some sentiment out there that at least the city had a parade.