"These events are not luxuries. These events are not frills. These events are important to get communities together. These events are a healing to differences that exist," Karem says. "It is a big, significant mistake on the part of the people who fund these events to cut back on them."
That impact goes beyond tradition and entertainment. It's also about the economy. More spectators bring in more money for local businesses. Julie Heckman, the executive director for American Pyrotechnics Association, cites several examples from independent studies.
In the small town of Tipton, Pa., DelGrosso's Amusement Park brings in 5,000 guests on a normal day. During its Summer Thunder fireworks show, more than 20,000 people come to the park, with an additional 30,000 spectators parked in the surrounding area. In Addison, Texas, Kaboom Town brings in $2.5 million in restaurant revenue. Red, White & Boom in Columbus, Ohio, has an $11 million impact on the city. San Diego's Big Bay Boom fireworks bring in $10.6 million.
Heckman says that there is a shift happening across the country from towns canceling fireworks displays because they are too expensive to now finding other ways to pay for a show.
One option is to seek outside sponsorship. Seattle was on the verge of canceling its fireworks celebration last year over Lake Union until several corporations, including Microsoft and Amazon, sponsored the show.
There are also several national contests. Destination America's Red, White & You contest this year awarded five towns $4,000 for a fireworks show. One of those towns is Prescott, Ariz., which lost 19 firefighters battling wildfires last year. At the height of the Great Recession in 2010, Liberty Mutual sponsored a similar event called Bring Back the 4th for 10 cities and towns across the country.
Some towns have partnered to save money and offer bigger shows for more people. In Chicagoland, several towns got together to form the Northwest Fourth-Fest for a collaborative celebration to save money. Elgin, one of the participating towns, spent $65,000 back when it did its own fireworks show. As of 2012, the town spent had $22,000 through the new partnership.
And fundraising can be as simple as using collection jars in front of a retail store or charging parking fees.
"I really do hope that communities that are cash-strapped and struggling think creatively to bring these shows back to their community," Heckman says. "What other holiday does the community really come together, regardless of religion and regardless of political beliefs? Everybody wants to celebrate the Fourth of July. If the skies are dark, it has a huge impact on the community."
While the economy continues to improve, fewer towns will have to cancel their fireworks celebrations for Independence Day this year. But for those that are still in the red, there may be some options to make sure fireworks remain synonymous with the Fourth of July.