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UPDATE: Private group steps up to keep Bedford tradition alive

By Tim Saunders, tsaunders@wdbj7.com
Published On: Jun 27 2013 01:15:27 AM EDT

The town is ending a longtime tradition because of budget cuts.

BEDFORD, Va. -

Bedford will have Independence Day fireworks after all.

A few weeks ago we told you that the city canceled its annual display, due to budget cuts. Now a private group is stepping up to keep the tradition alive.

The Bedford Moose Lodge #1897 will host a fireworks show on July 5. Because they're lining up the event at the last minute, they couldn't find a vendor to put on the show July 4.

The fireworks will be free and open to the public.

"Our mission statement speaks about community service and wants the lodges to be a heart of the community," said lodge administrator, Andy Dooley. "What better way to be a heart of the community than by picking up an event a lot of people attend and seem to appreciate."

Leaders of the Moose lodge are waiting to see how this year's event goes before deciding whether to continue it in the future.

Original Story June 3:

Bedford is a town that likes to show off its patriotic colors. Every fourth of July, the sky is bursting with fireworks.

The dazzling display is a tradition that's been around for more than five decades, but it won't be happening this year.

"Unfortunately, it's a program that has gone by the wayside due to budget concerns," said Bart Warner, assistant city manager for the city of Bedford.

City council spent $14,000 every year on the fireworks. Until a few years ago, they spilt that cost with the Bedford County board of supervisors.

"Due to their own budget concerns, the county stopped participating in that and it directly impacted our ability to participate," said Warner.

Facing a limited budget, city leaders made the difficult decision to permanently end the fireworks display.

Residents are sad to see it go.

"It's been around ever since I've been in Bedford and that has been a long time," said Bedford resident, Hazel Mayhew.

The show was started by private groups, like the Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce. In the mid-80's, it was taken over by the city government.

For the last 12 years, the fireworks have been set off at the National D-Day Memorial.

"It doesn't bother me that much, because I'm older, but I feel for the young people that have always enjoyed it," said Mayhew.

"I wanted my son to have something that he could go and watch," said Bedford resident, Brittany Taylor. "If they take it away, where are we going to go?"

No one likes to see a tradition end, but most people we talked to say cutting out fireworks was a responsible decision.

"I would think cutting something that is purely entertainment for the masses is a lot better than cutting out something like fire support or ambulances," said Bedford resident, Brenda Strong.

"I'm disapointed," said Jim Burden. "I would like to take my grandchildren to see the fireworks, but if the city and county do not have the money then I think it is fiscally responsible not to have the fireworks."

City leaders tried to find a private organization to help pay for the fireworks, but they were unsuccessful. Even if someone steps forward now to pay the bill, Bedford officials say it's too late to book a vendor who can supply the fireworks.