As a Baltimore resident, I find it especially fitting to celebrate the Fourth of July in the city where the Star Spangled Banner was written. Each year, Fourth of July festivities here in Baltimore and across the nation are marked by a variety of quintessentially American activities: parades, patriotic concerts, barbeques, and (most notably) firework displays. While I enjoy the beauty of bursting colors as they shoot across the sky, fireworks are also a boon to the economy. For example, consumers spent approximately $755 million on fireworks in 2015, and fifteen minutes’ worth of backyard fireworks can cost between $500 and $1,000.
Personal fireworks are illegal in many areas (including Baltimore City), meaning that no economic activity is generated from their sale. Official Fourth of July celebrations, however, can have a sizeable economic impact. For Baltimore City’s 2017 celebration in the Inner Harbor, attendance estimates fall between 25,000 and 75,000. If past trends hold true, the majority of attendees will be visiting Baltimore from outside the city limits or out of state. While local attendance and participation in these festivities is important, non-local visitors have a much larger economic impact. People that travel from outside the city or the state to attend celebrations such as the Fourth of July fireworks increase economic activity in the area by spending money in Baltimore that would normally be spent elsewhere. Additionally, non-local visitors drive economic activity in ways that locals do not, as they are more likely to book a hotel room in the Inner Harbor and take part in other tourist activities.
Other cities with firework displays have also experienced positive economic effects. For example, the Big Bay Boom event in San Diego generated $10.6 million in economic impact, between direct spending for the event, indirect (supply chain) impacts, and induced impacts (that stem from increases in household income). Similarly, in Ohio, the Red, White, & Boom event generated an economic impact of $11 million for the city of Columbus in 2014. Kaboom Town, a firework show near Dallas, TX, attracts approximately 500,000 spectators and records an economic impact that falls between $2.5 and $5 million.
While some may feel uneasy about cities spending thousands of dollars for brief, colorful displays of patriotism, Fourth of July fireworks certainly leave their mark. Not only do their smoke trails linger in the sky, they also show us what they’re worth to the local economy.