By DAVID KARP
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000
TAMPA -- Mayor Dick Greco learned the bad news before his 3 p.m. appointment arrived Wednesday: For the first time in more than 15 years, there would be no free fireworks in Tampa on the Fourth of July.
The corporate sponsors of the event had backed out. Greco knew the city hadn't set any money aside for fireworks, and he wondered who might pay for them now.
Then, Ronald Clark, senior pastor at Living Water Church arrived. He told the mayor about his church's plans for its own fireworks July 2. And just like that, the two men said at a news conference Monday, Clark decided his church would pay for a fireworks show downtown on July 4 as well.
The annual fireworks at Curtis Hixon Park will now go on as planned at 9:15 p.m. The event will be free, thanks to financial backing from the non-denominational church based in east Tampa.
People can set up picnics on the lawn as early as 7 p.m. for the 18-minute display. A contemporary adult Christian radio station WLPJ-FM, The Joy will broadcast patriotic music during the fireworks.
The fireworks should benefit the homeless, Clark said, since people will be encouraged to bring canned food to Curtis Hixon Park for Metropolitan Ministries, the social-service group that feeds the poor.
Living Water Church will also host its own carnival, concert by recording group Jars of Clay and fireworks on July 2 at its East Lake campus. The event, which will also benefit Metropolitan Ministries, costs $10 per person, along with a can of food.
Recent thunderstorms -- and the promise of more -- was enough Monday to persuade officials in several municipalities to lift bans on the sale and use of fireworks.
Citrus County ended its ban on the use of fireworks, saying recent rains have made it safer to shoot sparks into the sky. A proposed ban within Inverness city limits, which the City Council is scheduled to consider today, is also no longer necessary, said City Manager Frank DiGiovanni. The fireworks ban that the Crystal River City Council tentatively passed last week has not taken effect, and officials are hoping the July 4 fireworks will go on as planned.
Zephyrhills City Manager Steve Spina lifted the fireworks ban for Zephyrhills. The Dade City Commission will vote this afternoon on whether to extend its weeklong ban on fireworks. Pasco County lifted its ban on the sale and use of fireworks.
Galaxy Fireworks sued Pasco County Friday, seeking to overturn the fireworks ban, but did not ask for monetary damages.
That changed Monday, when they decided they wanted damages in excess of $15,000. Galaxy attorney Terrence Lenick said his clients won't know exactly how much money they lost during the county's two-week ban on the sale of fireworks until they hire an expert to compare this year's revenue to previous years'.