State stops music, kills fireworks for Fourth of July - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

State stops music, kills fireworks for Fourth of July

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In 2013, fireworks had blown the budget again, so the Waterfront Development Corporation passed the hat to help cover production costs for its Independence Festival. In 2013, fireworks had blown the budget again, so the Waterfront Development Corporation passed the hat to help cover production costs for its Independence Festival.
Waterfront Development Corporation Vice President Mike Kimmel Waterfront Development Corporation Vice President Mike Kimmel
Gisela Hazel Gisela Hazel
Greg Galiette Greg Galiette

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville's Waterfront Development Corporation depended on state money to help pay for an Independence Festival that lost money. Now that the General Assembly cut its $420,000 yearly subsidy the fireworks are dead and the Belle of Louisville's birthday bash is losing steam.

Blistering heat couldn't stop the music in 2012. In 2013, fireworks had blown the budget again, so the Waterfront Development Corporation passed the hat to help cover production costs for its Independence Festival. But in 2014, Kentucky's General Assembly dropped the ax quickly, and deeply.

[PREVIOUS STORY: Events in jeopardy after Waterfront Park cut from Commonwealth's budget]

"We had no warning," Waterfront Development Corporation Vice President Mike Kimmel said Monday morning.

"That's awful," said Gisela Hazel, a Sellersburg resident who works in Louisville and often walks Louisville's riverfront on her lunch hour. "Where's the money going? Where'd it go?"

"The same day that it was done, that it was voted on, was when we heard about it all," Kimmel said.

The $420,000 cut in state funding has left the WDC Board and staff befuddled, Kimmel said. It represents slightly less than 20 percent of the Corporation's overall budget.

"We had to cut the (Independence) Festival immediately," Kimmel said. "You've got contracts for artists and fireworks that you have to make sure that you can cancel."

That is also why the WDC will have to uninvite two guests to the Belle of Louisville's 100th Birthday party, set to be celebrated in October. Nashville's General Jackson Showboat and the Colonel Steamboat from Texas will not be part of the festivities.

"Those boats require payment in advance," Kimmel said. "And the ones that come from a far distance  it's a larger payment."

The WDC derives about $450,000 in revenues through restaurant leases and event rentals, Kimmel confirmed. But the leases are long-term and the user fees have been agreed to far in advance. 

"We are looking at everything. We're looking at, you know, the whole budget to see what things can be adjusted," Kimmel said. "We do not want to do anything that would reduce our ability to maintain the park and you really don't want to get rid of the staff because everybody works pretty hard."

Kimmel confirmed he and WDC President David Karem have accepted salary cuts. He declined to discuss percentages, though Karem's annual pay tops $153,000. In addition, WDC staffers will not get raises this year.

Hazel hadn't realized the Waterfront had offered a fireworks display Independence Day.

"I'm gonna be here for the Fourth of July and I won't have anywhere to go," she said. "I mean I'm sure there's gonna be smaller ones."

She need walk no further than to Slugger Field.

"It'll be business as usual for us July 3," Louisville Bats Vice President Greg Galiette said. The fireworks will follow the Bats game with Indianapolis.

The tradition has required a bit of juggling the past several years, coordinating the Independence Festival's music with the ball club's pyrotechnics.

"They were piggybacking off of us for awhile and doing their own festival," Galiette said. "When there was concerts going on across the way  it chewed up a lot of the parking spots, so parking for the baseball fan, coming to the baseball game that night, it'll be a lot easier."

The WDC  plans to finalize its list of proposed cuts, in the next couple of weeks.

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