By ELIZABETH BEILMAN
For years, Southern Indiana residents have enjoyed Louisville’s Fourth of July fireworks after Jeffersonville’s daytime parade and related events.
That won’t be an option this July, as the state of Kentucky slashed Waterfront Development Corp.’s budget — affecting some Ohio River events that Jeffersonville plans to piggy-backing on — although Mayor Mike Moore said his city’s planned activities will continue.
“Everything should be a go over here,” Moore said, adding that fireworks will not be part of the program.
Waterfront Development learned this week of the nearly $430,000 cuts made by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky from its $2.4 million budget.
“We had no indication that the long partnership that we had with the state on our park was in jeopardy,” David Karem, president of Waterfront Development, said in a press release. “We will assess all options to adapt to this fiscal shock.”
Because of these cuts, Waterfront Development was forced to cancel the Waterfront Independence Festival on July 3 and 4, according to news partner WAVE 3 News in Louisville.
“Unless out of the clear blue sky, some monstrous amounts of cash come in to support that, it will go away completely,” Karem said.
Waterfront Development will also scale back its Centennial Festival of Riverboats in October celebrating the Belle of Louisville’s 100th birthday.
“But there would be a smaller, more hometown celebration,” Karem said. “It will have to be retooled, redesigned.”
Paul Northam, Parks and Recreation director, said the events in Jeffersonville corresponding to those in Louisville — the Fourth of July festival and a resurrected Steamboat Days — won’t be affected by Kentucky’s money matters.
“I don’t see where we’ll need to do anything different,” Northam said.
In the past, Jeffersonville residents have enjoyed Fourth of July weekend events in Southern Indiana, including a parade and a concert, and watched the fireworks show over the Ohio River for free that Waterfront Development orchestrated.
Now, Indiana folks will just have to go without, as it’s too late for Jeffersonville to plan its own pyrotechnics, Moore said.
“You’re talking about an expensive venture, there,” he said. “I don’t anticipate Jeffersonville getting into the fireworks business.”
Moore said the city’s always been fortunate to have Louisville just across the river, but Jeffersonville can find a way to entertain on its own.
“We’ve learned to do more with less,” he said.
Moore said he talked to Karem and Neville Blakemore, chair of the Belle’s Big Birthday Bash, but Moore said he isn’t sure exactly what will be scaled back for the riverboat event.
Regardless, Steamboat Days, set for Oct. 17-19, will still feature the American Queen Steamboat anchored on the Indiana side of the river, as well as other events around the city.
“As far as Jeffersonville residents are concerned, it’s not going to affect the entertainment we put on on our side of the river,” Moore said.
Keith Norrington, director-curator of the Howard Steamboat Museum, said events at the museum are still on, including a talk at 3 p.m. Oct. 18 given by Capt. Clark Hawley, who started his career on the Avalon steamboat that became the Belle of Louisville.
“We’re sorry to hear that they’re scaling back on [Centennial Festival of Riverboats], but we’ll just do the best we can on our side of the river,” Norrington said.
He also said bringing back the Steamboat Days Festival is an important way to recognize Jeffersonville’s history.
“We’re all for anything that promotes our river heritage, because we’re here because of the river,” Norrington said.
More events hosted by the museum will be announced soon, he said.
One of the reasons the Steamboat Days Festival is returning this year is to join the Centennial Festival of Riverboats, but Moore said bringing back the festival has been in the works for some time.
“That’s an event I’ve been excited about bringing back,” he said. “When I was a kid running around Jeff, that was a great thing to go to. I’m going to ensure we bring back the good that is the Steamboat Days and separate the elements that brought it down.”
Moore said these “elements” were mostly teenagers misbehaving, dissuading vendors from coming to the event.
This year, arts vendors will surround the Big Four Station area and mimic the feel of the St. James Art Fair in Louisville.
“It’ll be a little bit of everything, but it will definitely be family oriented,” Moore said.
Northam said that Jeffersonville won’t be able to make up for what Louisville will lack for either event.
“Right now, our plate is so full, I don’t know how we could add anything,” he said.
Moore said despite the announcement, the city is still lucky to have a great partnership with Louisville.
“Both Jeffersonville and Louisville share a very valuable asset, and that’s the Ohio River,” he said. “You’ve got a million people over there on the south side of the river, and certainly, we see all of those people as potential customers for us.”