Florence’s Spirit of Freedom fireworks show canceled this year

FLORENCE, Ala. - The annual Spirit of Freedom Celebration in the Shoals has been canceled, due to lack of sponsorship support, according the organizer, URBan Radio Broadcasting.

The Shoals Radio Group has sponsored the event for the past 35 years, but say the economic conditions have forced their parent company to drop the sponsorship this year.

Urban Radio CEO Darryll Green told WHNT News 19, it was a tough decision and they hope to revive the fireworks show next year, but that with a lack of sponsors, they couldn't proceed.

The celebration annually attracts more than 30,000 people to the McFarland Park. The day-long event usually capped off each year by a fireworks celebration.

"I came and went here all through my childhood and it's always been a part of growing up for me." Dylan Hallmark can't think of many 4th of July's that he hasn't spent in McFarland Park.

This year, he and his friends will have to make different plans.

The tourism center said that more than 30,000 people choose to come here each 4th of July and spend thousands of dollars when they do. One number you can't put a price tag on, is quality first impressions from out-of-town visitors that come here, and might just come back.

“They’re coming in to visit family members or they’re coming in to see the band that’s playing at Spirit of Freedom," Chelsea Kaucheck of the Shoals Chamber of Commerce.

That lack of coveted out of town money may hurt some area businesses.

“It brings in quite a bit of tourism dollars to this area and I’m sure a lot of our businesses are kind of upset not to see those tourism dollars this year," says Kaucheck.

The CEO of the Lauderdale - Florence Tourism Center says they knew the Shoals Radio Group was looking for sponsor but says they didn't know how dire the situation was.

“Our staff has played a role on the advisory committee and just sort of helped the radio station navigate through the community or to different sponsors," says Rob Carnegie of the Tourism Center.

Carnegie says he wishes they would have found that out sooner, they maybe could have helped out.

“Obviously it’s a great way to be able to celebrate the freedom of our country so when that kind of thing happens it’s always a disappointment," says Carnegie.

With such short notice, it's unlikely another group will be able to revive the 35 year old tradition but moving forward, they don't want the "rockets red glare" to disappear forever.

“Whoever wants to pick up that torch, we’d be happy to help find sponsors of this event," says Kaucheck.