July 4 beats Starlighting for Castle Rock fireworks display

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The Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce had hopes to move an Independence Day tradition to November, but those hopes came up short.

Chamber President Pam Ridler on Feb. 19 asked town council to consider permanently moving the town’s annual fireworks display to the November Starlighting event. Councilmembers gave her request serious consideration.

Last year’s Fourth of July fireworks were canceled across Colorado because of drought conditions. Castle Rock hosted the display in mid-November, during its holiday Starlighting celebration. The celebration each year kicks off the holiday season with a downtown festival and lighting of the star that sits atop Castle Rock’s rock monument.

The 2012 Starlighting celebration included the grand opening of the town’s outdoor ice rink and drew a record crowd. In previous years, Starlighting drew about 12,000 to 14,000 people, Ridler said.

The 2012 event was too heavily attended to get a crowd estimate, she said.

“We have no idea this last time because it was just overwhelming,” Ridler said. “We didn’t get a good handle trying to estimate, but it was much more than in previous years.”

Those numbers moved one councilmember to support a permanent move of the fireworks to Starlighting instead of July 4.

The town’s Fourth of July display draws between 2,000 and 4,000 visitors each year, depending on the venue and type of event, said Kristin Trbovich, Castle Rock business analyst. The cost of having two events would add about $30,000 to the fireworks budget, Trbovich said.

While most councilmembers were interested in the Starlighting option, Clark Hammelman, District 6, voiced the strongest interest.

“If we had that many that showed up for Starlighting and only two to four thousand at July 4th, we ought to take that into consideration,” Hammelman said. “I lean toward having Starlighting be the (fireworks event) and let Fourth of July be the backup. It seems the best way to get the most bang for our buck.”

Town council opted to leave the July 4 tradition untouched and name Starlighting the automatic default venue for a fireworks celebration in the event of a cancellation.

“I had so much fun (at Starlighting) and thought it was so tremendous last year,” said Mayor Paul Donahue, District 1. “At Starlighting I thought fireworks made a tremendous difference … but I don’t want to take away the tradition of fireworks on Fourth of July. It’s part of our national heritage and a great celebration of Independence Day for our country.”