Whatever happened to the big fireworks show at Sam Boyd Stadium? And what should I do instead that night?
Our city’s Independence Day celebration once hinged on a big firefighter-produced benefit that, in its later years, lit up the skies over the Silver Bowl/Sam Boyd Stadium. If you weren’t there, you were in the street firing up whatever you could scrounge at the corner fireworks booth. And if you were really lucky, you had a crazy uncle who’d power his 1982 Trans Am an hour north to Moapa Tribal Enterprises (which, according to relentless radio ads, would “rise from the desert floor like a sleeping buffalo!”). Uncle returned with a trunkload of tax-free smokes and insane pyrotechnics, the latter of which your older brother and his buddies would use to torment you, destroy mailboxes and send neighborhood dogs diving under the bed.
The Firefighters Benefit Association show launched in 1951, but lost spark in the mid-1990s, as many newcomers balked at paying the $25-a-carload donation and watched from outside the stadium for free. Pressure also emerged from casinos, which stepped into a familiar role of community benefactor. I recall traffic-stopping, dueling fireworks extravaganzas produced by the neighboring Santa Fe and Fiesta casinos in the mid-1990s. It was likely a combination of these factors—and perhaps the 1996 150-acre brush fire ironically sparked by the firemen’s stadium show—that ended that tradition. By 1998, the stadium show was gone and the Firefighters Benefit Association was relegated to collecting a portion of tickets sold to the fireworks show at Cashman Field (that show’s on July 3, following the Las Vegas 51s’ 7 p.m. game against Salt Lake).
Other Fourth of July traditions have flamed out as well. The Las Vegas Philharmonic’s annual patriotic concert and fireworks show started at Hills Park in Summerlin and moved to The Smith Center last year, but it won’t take place this year. Similarly, Red, White & Boom—a popular event at Desert Breeze Park—was canceled in 2007 by Clark County due to cost concerns.
But other traditions continue. Summerlin hosts a 9 a.m. patriotic parade for the 20th time, while Henderson stages a free concert and fireworks show starting at 6 p.m. at Mission Hills Park. Meanwhile, Boulder City has the long-running Damboree, a daylong celebration punctuated by fireworks at 9 p.m. Station Casinos continues what the Fiesta and Santa Fe started by offering big, free fireworks shows at Red Rock Resort and Green Valley Ranch, choreographed to a patriotic soundtrack broadcast on a local radio station, so you never have to leave your car. (How Vegas!) Other resort fireworks shows include the Stratosphere, Mandalay Bay and the Linq. Each offers enhanced access and entertainment for a fee. But as the firefighters learned, anyone can look up and see the sparkles for free.
Click HERE for our full roundup of Fourth of July fireworks shows with times and ticket prices.