Melaleuca Freedom Celebration returns with a bang – and lots of people
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IDAHO FALLS — The Melaleuca Freedom Celebration returned with a bang Saturday night with more fireworks, fun and festivities than ever before.
Officials are still working to determine how many spectators attended the 28th annual event at Snake River Landing. They will review drone footage of traffic to measure the number of cars but Idaho Falls Police say “more people than we could count” watched the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River.
“It was a great event and we are very grateful to everyone that worked together to make it happen,” says Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson. “There are many, many hands and several entities that work closely together for months to make these events go as smoothly and safely as they do, and we hope that’s how most people experience the day. After the cancelation last year, it was really nice to see the community come out together.”
Following the fireworks, there was a minor car crash on Sunnyside Road near South Boulevard and one vehicle ran out of gas, but authorities say there were no other major incidents. Spectators began arriving at Snake River Landing before dawn to reserve their spots for the show.
Dozens of food and other vendors welcomed visitors at Riverfest, an annual event sponsored by Riverbend Communications. Bands performed live music throughout the day and, at 10 p.m., for 31 minutes, an average of ten firework shells per second were shot into the air as folks watched from blankets, tents, RVs, lawn chairs, bikes, scooters and rollerskates.
“For as many people as there were at the river, I think it was a pretty good evening,” says Idaho Falls Fire Department Battalion Chief Lance Johnson.
The American Pyrotechnics Association has twice included the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration on its list of “must-see Independence Day fireworks displays.” The event is meant to pay tribute to the Founding Fathers as well as veterans, service members and their families who have sacrificed to preserve the freedoms of America.
“It may be the only city in America that has made such a large investment in the overall fireworks experience for spectators,” says Julie Heckman, Executive Director for American Pyrotechnics Association. “This American-made product is sure to delight spectators with American ingenuity, vibrant colors, and custom-made special effects that have never been seen anywhere in the world.”
Most of the fireworks used in the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration were made in the United States, a unique feature because the majority of fireworks worldwide are manufactured in China. Sourcing so much product from an American manufacturer is rarely done because of limited quantities and a hefty price tag between 25-100 percent more than Chinese alternatives.
“Because American-made fireworks are quite expensive, only the largest, purest sponsors of firework displays typically purchase them,” said Heather Gobet, a fifth-generation pyrotechnician who fired the show. “Because Melaleuca is willing to invest in the highest-premium American shells, this (was) the first time we launched a fireworks display that does not heavily depend on China.”
In 2017, Ball Ventures constructed a 110-acre outdoor amphitheater exclusively for the free event. The fireworks launched from five zones along a massive elevated pad wider than two football fields.
“Our community truly comes together for Independence Day. Thank you to law enforcement, EMS, firefighters, and those who helped us stay safe as we celebrated,” says Ball Ventures CEO Cortney Liddiard. “Ball Ventures loves the opportunity to work with Melaleuca, Riverbend Communications, and the sponsors each year, as well as the City of Idaho Falls, Bonneville County and state agencies that accomplish this massive undertaking on behalf of our community.”