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Kennewick's fireworks show won't be the same. The barge is gone

The River of Fire fireworks show will launch from the Lampson pits Wednesday instead of the usual river barge. Organizers were unable to find a replacement for the barge shown here, which was sold.
The River of Fire fireworks show will launch from the Lampson pits Wednesday instead of the usual river barge. Organizers were unable to find a replacement for the barge shown here, which was sold. File

The show must go on.

And so will Kennewick's annual River of Fire after losing the barge used for launching the annual pyrotechnics.

Instead of launching from the middle of the Columbia River next week, the fireworks will blast off from the Neil F. Lampson Pit area at the east end of Columbia Park.

It's a year of other changes for the annual Fourth of July celebration.

The Tri-City Water Follies Association takes the baton from the Tri-City Chamber of Commerce, calling it a natural extension of its community service mission.

With the change in managers also comes an unexpected change in location for the launching, including the elimination of some usual favorite viewing spots.

Cathy Powell, director of the Water Follies, called it unavoidable.

Tidewater barging company sold the aging barge that could be anchored alone in the river without tugboats and nothing comparable is available to replace it.

Instead, the Lampson pits — usually the headquarters for the Columbia Cup hydroplane races — will be the launching headquarters.

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It will be surrounded by a 1,000-foot safety zone secured by fencing and around-the-clock patrols. Powell calls it the "sphere of danger."

This year's 20-minute fireworks show is sponsored by HAPO.

For the public, the sphere of danger means River of Fire will look a little different.

The park still welcomes visitors at $5 a carload. But the exclusion zone knocks some roads, parking and even the Columbia Park band shell out of commission.

Reserved spots for people with disabilities will be replaced at other lots, and traffic will be rerouted around the zone. A makeshift stage near the Regional Veterans Memorial will stand in for the Columbia Park stage.

For 2018, Water Follies has revived the tradition of a day of activities in the park leading up to the fireworks show at dusk, usually about 10 p.m. The park opens at 9 a.m. July 4.

This year's festival features a nine-hole golf scramble and a beer garden operated by Mizuno Maniacs Baseball Club. The beer garden is open 3 to 9:30 p.m., closing shortly before the fireworks.

Live music will be provided by Chris Loid and Green Light Polly and by the Stingrays, beginning at 3 p.m.

There will be food vendors, kid's activities and tours of the park aboard the J&S Dreamland Express trolley-type train.

The chamber of commerce announced last fall that it would no longer produce two iconic summer events — River of Fire and Cool Desert Nights.

The chamber board voted to drop the events after a member survey indicated they did not align well with the chambers mission and that the work overwhelmed its small staff.

The chamber organized a final Cool Desert Nights this month but handed River of Fire off to Water Follies in February.

Across the river, Pasco continues its Grand Old Fourth celebration with a notable change of its own.

The show at Gesa Stadium will feature slightly smaller fireworks this year, a concession to the residential and retail development closing in on the stadium area.

Gates open at 6 p.m. The Pasco show gets going at dusk.

Wendy Culverwell: 509-582-1514
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