Fourth of July fireworks show saved by downtown businesses, SCAD

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) - When budget cuts put Savannah's Fourth of July fireworks show on the chopping block, local businesses went into action.

Among the cuts when city council pulled the Fire Fee out of the budget was $147,000 for community events.

That included fireworks for the Fourth of July.

It's a show that brings in at least 60,000 every year in Savannah.

"I couldn't believe it," said Tondee's Tavern owner Willie Tuten when he heard the fireworks were going to be canceled.

"We knew we didn't have the cash to make the minimum needed for the fireworks show and at that moment, the fireworks were off," explained TLC President Michael Owens.

So Michael Owens and the Tourism and Leadership Council went into action.

"Georgia's oldest city has to have a fireworks show," Owens said.

A mass e-mail was sent out to businesses in search of whatever cash donations they could contribute to the cause.

Tuten, a lifelong Savannah resident and Owner of Tondee's Tavern, which has been open on Bay Street for the last six years, immediately chipped in.

"I felt like it was the right thing to do to give a donation to keep the fireworks alive," said Tuten.

He wasn't alone. Various restaurants, bars, hotels all pulled out their checkbooks.

The Westin, Northpoint Hospitality, Kessler Group, Spanky's Tondee's and the Live Oak Restaurant Group were some of the contributors.

"We turned to the business community, and I tell you they jumped in and jumped in in a big way," said Owens. "Couple hundred dollars to a thousand dollars at a time we started to get there."

But it wasn't going to be enough, that is, until SCAD stepped in.

"Paula Wallace (SCAD President) didn't bat an eye. She said absolutely," remembers Owens. "She knew the importance of this night to this community, to everybody that lives here in the area. Biggest night in the summer. SCAD got us the rest of the way there."

In just a few hours on a Friday afternoon, $30,000 poured in to save the community celebration.

So the show will go on, which means a full restaurant at Tondee's, and a town full of people having a blast on Independence Day.

"Its not a tourism product, not a tourism driver," says Owens. "Its where I know my neighbors are meeting me down on River street we are going to have a beer and watch one of the best fireworks shows in the South."

Everyone agrees this was a great team effort, but its not a long term solution.

Owens believes a combination of city, county and local businesses need to come together for future fireworks shows and December holiday celebrations.

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