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Fireworks fall-out

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The sale of Alonzo Fireworks in Mechanicville to a New Jersey company is impacting local skies.

Lake George Village will proceed with its 4th of July and Thursday night summer fireworks shows, but may forego smaller shows held in conjunction with festivals and other community events. Already cancelled is the fireworks show this week with the Performance Boat Weekend on Lake George.

Meanwhile, the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra has had to change dates from July 4th to July 3rd for its annual concert and fireworks at Crandall Park.

Shay Mason, the orchestra’s executive director, tells The Chronicle, “Alonzo always worked with us on this” timing. Without a contract in place, Alonzo’s new owner wasn’t able to honor the traditional agreement on the Fourth — “and it was going to cost more,” Mrs. Mason said.

She said the orchestra was waiting to ink a deal until it received final funding approval from the Queensbury Town Board, but once it came through, the new company said it wasn’t able to honor the July 4 date.

The good news, Mrs. Mason said, is, though the new company’s prices are up, because of the changed date, they’ll give a discount, “so it’ll be about the same” — between $4,500 and $5,000 for the show.

July 3 was traditionally when radio station WCKM had its Summerjam rock concert and fireworks show either at East Field or West Mountain, but it turns out that WCKM had previously decided not to continue its event this year.

Alonzo, the major producer of Capital Region fireworks shows for half a century, sold its operations to the larger, 125-year-old, family-owned Santore’s World Famous Fireworks Company — a new subsidiary of Garden State Fireworks founded by the Santore family in 1890.

Santore’s says on its Website, “We have retained the infrastructure and technicians to continue to service the long-standing clients of the Alonzo family.”

Blais: We were Alonzo’s biggest client

Lake George Mayor Bob Blais said, “We met with [Santore’s] twice to discuss our program in the summer. They appreciate that we do a long list of fireworks shows.

“We were Alonzo’s largest client. But the new company, they do New York City, Hudson River shows. They could no longer do the shows for the same price, they told us. We put it out to bid, and sure enough, the price was larger (than for Alonzo).”

Mayor Blais said the village customarily launches its fireworks from the lake, so the provider must rent a barge from the Lake George Steamboat Company, especially making smaller shows less cost-effective.

“We’re looking at taking some of those shows off the lake and putting them in the Festival Space,” Mayor Blais said. “Of course, that’s not as grand or beautiful, or as much of a benefit to the Lake George Village businesses.”

Mayor Blais said that judging by parking meter returns and sewage flow numbers, Thursdays are the biggest night of the week for Lake George Village “all summer long.” He notes that businesses including Fort William Henry, Shoreline Cruises, OTB and the state-run Beach Park make money that night charging for parking.

The mayor said of the decision not to have fireworks for the Performance Weekend this week, “We discussed this with the parties (organizing the weekend), and they are fine with it.”

Short by $10,000

Mayor Blais said the Village budgets $65,000 to $75,000 for the eight Thursday fireworks shows and Fourth of July. The Town contributes $17,000 toward the fireworks and other community events in Shepard Park.

Now the Thursday shows will each cost approximately $6,000 — up about $1,000. Fourth of July comes in at $11,000.

Mayor Blais said, “The small shows used to cost us $1,500 to $2,500 each. Alonzo really worked with us on those. But the new company just can’t do it. We are short approximately $10,000 is the bottom line.”

The mayor added, “In most communities, there would be a Business Improvement District that would step in to pick up the slack. It’s the businesses that benefit from the fireworks. Residents shouldn’t have to come up with more money for the shows” through taxes.

He said the village sent a solicitation to businesses with their water bills, asking them to help pay for the secondary fireworks shows, with suggested sponsorship levels from $250 to $1,000.

“But outside four Lake George businesses that contacted me I have not received any calls. It’s not enough,” the mayor said.

He said the Village will consider funding for some of their traditional secondary fireworks shows, say for the Adirondack Nationals car show, “on a per-case basis.”

Alonzo: Why we sold company

Alonzo, which had fireworks plants in Mechanicville and Stillwater, says on its Website: “Our story is that Mom (Joann Alonzo) is 67 years old and overly deserving of retirement and the timing was right.

“As a seasonal business, it has become more difficult to keep up with the ever changing regulatory demands and material price increases.

“Jeff (Joann’s son) has a full-time career as a firefighter/paramedic and loves his job. Things certainly have not been the same since Louie (Joann’s husband and Jeff’s father) left us 13 years ago. He was the driving force behind Alonzo Fireworks from the start.”

Alonzo said it had five year-round employees, and added as many as 100 part-timers during fireworks season. The purchaser Santore’s company says on its Website it plans to keep on employees and all operations.

Its parent Garden State touts among its high-profile accomplishments the Washington, D.C., Fourth of July; New York City Fourth, and numerous international world fireworks championships.

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