Budget Cuts Impact Decatur's Spirit of America Festival
DECATUR, AL (WZDX) - This year's Spirit of America Festival at Point Mallard Park will be consolidated from a two day celebration into to an one-hour event due to budget cuts at Decatur Parks and Recreation.
This July 4th will mark the 47th annual Spirit of America Festival. More than 50,000 people attend the two-day celebration every year and many families are there to watch the fireworks.
"We've just gone, really just to watch the fireworks and we don't even go to Point Mallard to watch them," said Somerville resident Angie Gilchrist. "We just go outside Wheeler Wildlife Refuge on the road, park near the bridge and just watch them and a bunch of other people do that too."
But the fireworks display is the only thing that will stay the same at this year's festival. A tight budget has Decatur Parks and Recreation cutting out non-emergency overtime. That includes employees that setup, take down and clean up during the festival.
"Now that the budget has been cut, we've had to literally cut out the things that all those people did in order to be able to facilitate the production," said Point Mallard Marketing Director Julianne Hansen.
The Spirit of America, organized this year by Point Mallard, will be consolidated into a 45-minute video presentation that will include the festival's award winners.
The Point Mallard Water Park will be open until 8 p.m. on July 4th. The video will start at 8:15 p.m. Fireworks will start an hour early at 9 p.m.
No activities will take place on the stage including The Miss Point Mallard Pageant. It will now be held on June 22nd at the Princess Theater and is now called Miss Spirit of America.
"We really did want to maintain the integrity of the festival. We didn't want it to die. We didn't want it to go away," said Hansen. "It's a tradition for so many families."
Hansen said the festival's budget will now focus on the fireworks display that will be bigger and better than ever.
"More of a focus on the fireworks and spending more of the budget on fireworks seems better to me," said Gilchrist.
"I think it's sad for our community that the festival is not going to be there the way it has been," said Decatur resident Amber James. "I know there are a lot of people that do go and do participate every year and it's sad that's going to be gone."
Hansen said they will have to wait until next year's budget is released to see if they can afford to bring back the traditional two-day format.