Cortez plans July Fourth fireworks show; other towns cancel

Friday, June 29, 2018 8:11 AM
The Cortez fireworks show in 2017.

Many Southwest Colorado towns have canceled their Fourth of July fireworks displays, but the show in Cortez will go on.

After meeting Thursday morning with city officials and the Cortez Fire Protection District, organizer Keenan Ertel said he planned to go ahead with the show, which will take place at Parque de Vida, as usual.

Cortez’s annual fireworks display has drawn as many as 6,000 people in the past, Ertel said, but this year the crowd may be even bigger. Durango, Silverton, Rico, Pagosa Springs and other Southwest Colorado towns have canceled their displays because of the hot, dry conditions that contributed to the 416 and Burro fires. That could leave Cortez and Dove Creek in Dolores County as the only places in the region to see fireworks on the Fourth.

Ertel said this year’s display will be the usual explosive affair, with about 500 aerial shells, 25 to 30 ground displays and several gas mines and other pyrotechnics. He said the show has always emphasized safety.

“When you’re dealing with explosives of this nature, you can’t be sure of everything,” he said. “That’s why we keep it at a safe distance and do an electric display, so no one gets hurt.”

All the fireworks are set off remotely from a trailer near Parque de Vida, and the Cortez Fire Protection District keeps an engine nearby for emergencies. Last year, the firefighters’ services were needed when a shell exploded on the ground, causing minor flames that took about 15 minutes to extinguish.

This year, Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Bittle said he plans two additional brush fire trucks and a water tender on hand for the fireworks. Parque de Vida also will get extra watering for a few days before the Fourth of July. Bittle said the fire district decided to approve the display because the fire danger isn’t as high in Cortez as it is in mountain towns like Rico.

“We feel our risk is very low,” he said.

District and city officials plan to hold another meeting next week to discuss the logistics of the display.

The fireworks display this year will cost about $15,000, and was funded by local businesses through private donations and the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association. Ertel said he hopes more out-of-town visitors will help those businesses get their money’s worth in publicity.

“I’d like to see people maybe even come the day before, spend a day in town, spend some money with our local business people,” he said.

His fireworks display, which is free, will begin about 9 p.m., or whenever the sky grows dark enough.

Dove Creek also will hold a fireworks display on July 4 as part of its annual Pick ’n’ Hoe Independence Day celebration, which lasts through July 7. Organizer Tabitha Henderson said the Dove Creek Volunteer Fire Department will put on the display, with trucks on standby in case of fire. It will begin at sundown in Weber Park, after live music starting at 7 p.m.

“It’ll be as good as it was last year,” Henderson said.

The fate of Mancos’ fireworks display is still up in the air, organizer and Fire Chief Tony Aspromonte said. His Denver-based fireworks supplier also sends pyrotechnics to Durango, Rico and other towns that have canceled their displays, and as of Thursday, the company hadn’t indicated whether it would send a truck just to supply Mancos. Even if the fireworks are available, Aspromonte said he would need to talk with Montezuma County Sheriff Steve Nowlin and other officials to find out whether conditions are safe enough for the display.

Last year, Mancos’s fireworks were interrupted by a small brush fire, which Mancos Fire Department personnel quickly extinguished.

Fire bans remain in effect in Montezuma and Dolores counties, which are experiencing exceptional drought conditions and high fire danger. Stage 2 fire restrictions are also in place in the San Juan National Forest. With the exception of officially sanctioned displays like the one in Cortez, fireworks are banned throughout the region.

If you go

Cortez Fourth of July fireworks

When: 9 p.m. Wednesday, July 4

Where: Parque de Vida, 400 N. Mildred Road

Cost: Free

More information: Go to the calendar entry on the Cortez Retail Enhancement Association website,

Dove Creek Pick ’n’ Hoe

When: Wednesday, July 4-Saturday, July 7 (fireworks at sunset July 4)

Where: Weber Park, Dove Creek

Cost: Free

More information: Contact Tabitha Henderson at 601-316-8444 or