Last night, City Council unanimously selected Athens-based Central State Fireworks to put on Jacksonville’s annual show for the Independence Day holiday. Fred Blanford is a lead pyrotechnic operator for the company.
“I just really am floored that I'll be able to practice my art for my neighbors and my friends," says Blanford. "Our company in headquartered in Athens and everybody on my crew I actually recruited from my church here in Jacksonville. We go to school with your kids, we live next door to you, and I'm just really looking forward to the opportunity to show Jacksonville, my neighbors, my friends and my wife and kids what I do for the Fourth of July."
Blanford says his company performs shows across the Midwest including the cities of Alton and Jerseyville.
Jacksonville contract with nationally known Melrose Pyrotechnics expired this year. The city has used the company based out of Kingsbury, Indiana for about 20 years for its Fourth of July Fireworks.
The new company won’t necessarily offer anything new, but alderwoman Lori Oldenettel says it’s important to select a local company considering Illinois’ economic state.
“I think the community has seen a lot of downturn in the economy," says Oldenettel. "We've lost a lot of jobs and I think this is one more opportunity for the City Council to show our support to the people who actually live here, and let them know that our best interest is the people who live here. We want to try to keep as many jobs as we can here, keep people living here, and give back to our community."
Alderman Tony Williams says the local company presented an attractive offer.
“This new company is only asking for a one-year contract," says Williams. "So, that's pretty safe. I think we should give our local companies an opportunity for business right here in the city."
Jacksonville spends about $11,500 on its Fourth of July fireworks display every year.