When spectators watch next year’s Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, they’ll be doing so from a brand-new spot. That’s because the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River is moving away from the Idaho Falls greenbelt along the Snake River, where it has been hosted for the past 24 years.
The event’s sponsor, Melaleuca, announced the change earlier this week, stating that the fireworks show has outgrown the greenbelt.
“Each year, the trees along the Greenbelt and the surrounding area have gotten taller,” Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said. “And in order to have people be able to see the fireworks, we have had to increase the size of the shells so they fire higher in the air. But since the site is surrounded by homes and businesses, we are restricted by code and common sense to limit the size of the shells we fire to 4 inches. We would like to fire much larger shells. But tall trees, homes and buildings don’t mix well with large fireworks.”
VanderSloot also said that the decision to move the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration has been put off for a while now. He recognizes just how much the annual tradition means to the community, its residents, and even for people who come from out of town to see the show.
“The Greenbelt has been a wonderful venue for the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration for 24 years, and families have made wonderful memories there,” VanderSloot said. “There’s so much value in tradition, and that’s why we’ve waited several years longer than we originally considered to make this change.”
In years past, the fireworks were set off from a single spot on a boat launch along the Snake River, which limited how many and what type of pyrotechnics could be used. Now, organizers are looking for a new site with a wider firing line where bigger fireworks with more dazzling special effects can be launched from multiple zones at once. The result will be a much more impressive show spread across a much larger canvass of night sky.
“We’ve spent considerable time examining different locations in Idaho Falls, and we couldn’t be more excited about the possibilities that are available,” said Heather Gobet, president of Western Display Fireworks. “Finding a new site allows us to include a number of new products that Southeast Idaho has never seen before and incorporate many design elements that the previous site simply didn’t allow. The fireworks will be bigger and better, while maintaining the highest levels of safety for the public and our crew.”
While no new location has been selected yet, Melaleuca, Idaho Falls city officials, and Western Display Fireworks—which supplies the show’s pyrotechnics—are working together to find a new venue as soon as possible. They hope to announce the decision—which will take into account public input—by January 2017.
The ideal location must safely accommodate more than 100,000 spectators–and safely handle the accompanying traffic—while also providing clear sightlines from every direction and a wide enough fallout zone for the falling firework debris. Speculation as to where next year’s event will be is already in full swing, with Snake River Landing, Sandy Downs, and Sand Creek Golf Course being thrown out as possibilities.
VanderSloot has not hinted on where the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration will end up, but the goal is to keep it in or near Idaho Falls. “The good news is we are not moving it to Blackfoot,” he said. “We’re not moving it to Pocatello, and we’re not moving it to Minneapolis.”
Upon hearing that, the Rexburg Area Chamber of Commerce excitedly sent VanderSloot a letter in which they invited him to move the celebration to their hometown. While it was a gracious offer from the folks in Rexburg, the odds that the 25th Annual Melaleuca Freedom Celebration will move from the Idaho Falls community—where it has been a beloved staple for a generation—to Madison County are infinitesimal.