Sarah Gardner: It hasn’t been the most pleasant of holidays for a lot of Americans. Record-breaking heat, wildfires, those power outages in the Midwest and the East. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses still don’t have electricity. A lot of cities have canceled their traditional fireworks celebrations. The fire threat’s just too great in some parts of the country.
But in Coral Gables, Fla., the party is on, after a long hiatus. Cynthia Birdsill is the city’s director of economic sustainability. Ms. Birdsill, welcome to the program.
Cynthia Birdsill: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Gardner: Since we’ve caught you in the your office today, I assume that you must be preparing for tonight’s big fireworks show.
Birdsill: Yes, we have a lot of logistics. We’re expecting 25,000 to 30,000 people.
Gardner: Now, I understand Coral Gables hasn’t had a fireworks display on the 4th for a long time. When was the last time you had one?
Birdsill: It was in 2006, so it’s been six years.
Gardner: What happened?
Birdsill: I think there were budget constraints, and then, you know, with the economy, we just didn’t get back to having it in the budget.
Gardner: How much does it cost a community like Coral Gables of about, what, 47,000 people, to put on one of these big fireworks displays?
Birdsill: This year it’s costing about $130,000.
Birdsill: That includes the fireworks; we have a band that’s going to play, so there’s a stage and all that kind of equipment as well.
Gardner: So I’m assuming that the city’s finances didn’t magically get healed since 2006. You’ve had some financial help. Who’s paying for this?
Birdsill: This year our city commission passed a sponsorship ordinance that allows us to work with corporate sponsors on events. So one of our key sponsors is Bacardi U.S.A., and another is Del Monte Fresh Produce. They both have their corporate headquarters in Coral Gables, so they’re giving back to the community and we’re also thrilled to be able to help promote them.
Gardner: Why did this law pass in the first place? Was Coral Gables — like a lot of cities — having trouble funding a lot of services, and you felt you needed to turn to the private sector?
Birdsill: Definitely. We had a lot of cuts in the last couple of years. We’ve been able to retain all our core services, but you know, the extras like the fireworks were the things that we couldn’t put back in.
Gardner: Cynthia, tell me what does it mean to the city of Coral Gables that they are finally going to have a fireworks show on July 4th for the first time in six years.
Birdsill: What’s really wonderful is seeing this sense of community. I really love my job working for this city, and in part, we have a small-town feel, even though we have big infrastructure and big corporations here. So I just love the fact that I know people and that everybody’s come together to do this.
Gardner: Cynthia Birdsill is economic sustainability director in Coral Gables, Fla., not far from Miami. Ms. Birdsill, thanks a lot and happy 4th of July.
Birdsill: You too, thanks so much.
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