The fireworks by J&M Displays, Inc. at Webster Groves Community Days on the Fourth of July was a bust — again.
Three years after flubbing Webster Groves’ July 4 fireworks show in 2016, a mishap during this year’s show sent a shell into the crowd, causing minor injuries to several spectators.
The remnants of charred fireworks were visible on the clothing of those near the misfire. Eleven people were treated and released on the scene by Webster Groves emergency medical personnel, according to Webster Groves city officials.
But at least one person was treated at a hospital. Webster Groves resident Dana Bosler, who had been watching the fireworks with her children from Ambrose Way, suffered second- and third-degree burns on the back of her right leg and was treated at an emergency room.
“My three children were unharmed, but with two having been on my lap at the time, I feel blessed that they weren’t physically hurt,” she said.
The incident led the city to cancel the a second night of fireworks scheduled for Saturday, July 6.
Things went awry when a three-inch shell malfunctioned and “caused another shell to fire close to the crowd,” according to a statement from J&M Displays CEO James Oetken. He said the incident is being investigated.
A source told the Webster-Kirkwood Times that J&M Displays was running behind schedule, and was late in setting up the fireworks, which may have contributed to the misfire.
Webster Groves Parks and Recreation Director Scott Davis said that wasn’t the case. He added that the city is currently “reviewing every aspect of the show,” and that it has suspended all fireworks displays until the review is completed.
In 2016, the fireworks show by J&M Displays left many fairgoers frustrated when the finale sequence sparked within the first few minutes of the show. This year’s show was also cut short when the shell fired into the crowd at about the 13-minute mark of a scheduled 20-minute show.
When asked why J&M Displays was putting on this year’s show given the 2016 mishap, Davis said the city has had a multi-year contract with the Iowa-based company. That contract began in 2015 and ends in 2019. He said he doesn’t know if the city will hire the company again.
Webster Groves City Administrator Steve Wiley said the city won’t have to pay J&M Displays for the aborted show on July 4 or the show that was scheduled for July 6. The July 4 show would have cost $17,500.
Lions Feel The Loss
Although the city didn’t lose money, the Webster Groves Lions Club, host of the annual carnival and barbecue, certainly did. Although the final figures are not in, the loss is already being felt.
“The difference in what our sales have been on the nights with fireworks and what our sales were without the fireworks is tremendous,” Webster Groves Lions Club President Becky Speeler said. “It hurts.”
The lack of fireworks on Saturday night led to a lower turnout at the fair that day. The carnival and barbecue are typically the club’s largest fundraiser of the year, but that won’t be the case this year.
The Lions had scheduled wristband ride days on July 3 and 5 — unlimited carnival rides for $25. With the cancellation of Saturday’s fireworks, the Lions added Saturday as another wristband day and included free admission to the city’s pool and skating rink. Speeler said she’s not sure that incentive helped.
“People had already done their wristband days. Without the fireworks to bring people out on Saturday, the whole day was just deflated,” she said.
Speeler said the loss in revenue means the club won’t be able to help as many people and organizations as it usually does. The club typically donates more than $125,000 to over 50 organizations every year.
Speeler encourages the public to support the Webster Groves Lions Club at its upcoming trivia night and monthly barbecues. The trivia night is Saturday, Aug. 10, at the American Legion Post 111, 7300 Landsdowne Ave. The barbecues are the second Friday and Saturday of the month, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., on the General Grant Center parking lot, 8400 Watson Road. For more details, visit www.webstergroveslions.com.