By Angie Mayes
Mt. Juliet News Correspondent
There could be two separate fireworks shows on Independence Day in Mt. Juliet.
Originally, the city canceled its event, claiming there was nowhere to safely have it that would also allow spectators to view the event.
Along came Tom Needham, owner of Needham Nurseries, who said he would sponsor an event that would take place at the Providence shopping area in the city.
City Manager Kenny Martin said recently he found a place to hold the fireworks show, despite previous statements that included, “Mt. Juliet is a “dense city,” meaning there are quite a few buildings within the city limits, which, in turn, leads to no appropriate space for the fireworks to be lit.
“You have to have a proper and safe fall-out zone to properly discharge fireworks,” Martin said in March about the area needed for fireworks debris to land safely.
For a professional fireworks display, depending on the size of the shell, there has to be a certain equal distance from the fireworks shells to the audience. That will allow the debris to not fall on spectators.
Martin said in March there is no “[current] piece of land perfectly situated to do such a thing. Some have asked why we couldn’t do it off of Golden Bear [Parkway], but we simply don’t have the adequate parking to safely do something like that.”
In April, Needham said his business would hold a private fireworks show near the Providence area.
“A couple of weeks ago, [Martin] canceled the fireworks show with no explanation,” Needgam said in April. “Then, I started hearing Kenny’s explanation. No parking. No fall-out zone. No safety-zone.
“[The Providence area has] the very best parking, noting he called Dale McCullough, a representative from Jones Brothers who owns land in the area. McCullough said he’d be glad to offer his property for the show. McCullough also said Martin did not call him to ask if the city could use his property for the show.
“The next area was owned by the Boyle Group,” Needham said. “Now the Boyle Group has been a very important part of our community. They have been good to our community.”
He said the person he called with the Boyle Group said they would agree to hold the show on its land and added Martin didn’t call to ask about using the land this year.
In May, Martin there was adequate parking at local grocery stores, Charlie Daniels Park and local schools.
After Martin said the city would once again have the display, Needham questioned why the city was “spending $15,000 for [about 500 cars to park], when at you’ve spent $30,000 for tens of thousands of people. That makes no sense.”
Needham said he worked as a volunteer with the state on the Fireworks Safety Council, “helping write the safety laws. Kenny, I know you love Mt. Juliet, but safety is something you said [in originally canceling the show]. The site down below Publix is the safest place that we’ve had.”
He said “thousands and thousands of cars” could park at Providence to see the fireworks.
“Visibility,” Needham said. “You can see it from miles around. It’s the best place we’ve ever had.”
Commissioner Ray Justice said, “I have never in my life seen more fireworks over fireworks. With everything we have to consider in the city, fireworks is a little ridiculous. Once [Needham] got it in his hands [to do the fireworks show], rather than calling the city manager and having a conversation with him about other places that may be opportunities within the city, he decided to come down here and call the city manager everything but a child of God.”
Justice said there “are parking issues over there, but those parking issues are no more than any other place in the city of Mt. Juliet. There will be a traffic safety plan and a fire safety plan.”
He said the police and fire resources will be in the north end of the city, where the fireworks will be shot.
“There will be adequate plans in place to make sure it’s acceptable and safe,” Justice said.
Vice Mayor James Maness asked about the two shows.
“I have no idea,” said Justice, who noted Needham had not taken out any permits to hold his show.
Martin said, “Just like with any site, the [city’s] fireworks show has moved many, many places over the years. The city has grown tremendously over the years, and we can only use property that we can use.”
He said there are plenty of places to park for the city’s show.
“Will it be the same as Providence?” Martin asked. “Maybe not, but it’s still going to be a great show.”
Martin said the fireworks show would start at 9 p.m. at the Mt. Juliet Little League Ballpark. Impact Pyro will present the show.
Martin said various locations to park would include along Mt. Juliet Road, Lebanon Road, Charlie Daniels Park and Mt. Juliet Middle School.
“This is similar to the Providence area but a smaller scale,” Martin said Thursday. “The city was able to secure a location.”
Martin said the show would last between 20-30 minutes. He said in year’s past, the budget was $30,000, but this year’s budget will be $15,000.
As for Needham’s potential show, Martin said a permit must be granted to hold a fireworks show, and no permits were applied for as of May 16.