Homecoming game fireworks canceled to keep spectators safe

Jami Bechard | Staff Writer

This year’s Homecoming game at Mason will be short of one popular tradition: the fireworks. With all of the additions to Mason’s campus, the fireworks have become a safety hazard and an insurance issue, according to Lorri Fox-Allen, Mason’s student activities director. So, the fireworks have been canceled for the 2009 Homecoming game. Student Government paid for the fireworks each year previous; now, they have almost $3,200 to spend elsewhere.Fox-Allen said she had a large say in the decision to cancel the fireworks. Rozzi’s Famous Fireworks had been hired each year to put on the fireworks at Mason’s Homecoming games, but Rozzi won’t pay for any damages or accidents within 1,000 feet of the launch area. This 1,000 feet parameter is called the fall-out zone and originates in the outfield of the girls’ softball field (the launch area). The fallout zone includes a part of Mason-Montgomery Road, parking lot C, the back side of the visiting bleachers and the new Atrium Medical Center, Fox-Allen said.

“With the new softball stadium and the Atrium [Medical Center], there’s always been an issue with how close the fall-out zone is to everything,” Fox-Allen said. “Within [the] 1,000 foot radius of the launch site, anything that would get hurt or damaged, Rozzi Fireworks does not cover. That would fall back on Student Government or the school district.”

With Mason-Montgomery Road and the other team’s spectators so close to the launch area and cars parked all around the stadium, the fireworks, she said, are a dangerous idea. Since Student Government is completely in charge of Homecoming, it would be responsible for paying for any damage caused by the fireworks.

“If somebody’s car gets damaged, and Rozzi’s not going to pay for it, then that would fall back to Student Government, and that’s not what we want the money that is raised by kids going towards,” Fox-Allen said.

Each year, $2,000 to $3,200 is set aside by Student Government to pay for the fireworks at the Homecoming football game, according to Stephanie Nally, Mason’s Student Government adviser. Now, Student Government is brainstorming different ideas on how they can spend the money.

“[Student Government is] brainstorming ideas that we could do instead of the fireworks,” Nally said. “Obviously, this wasn’t a Student Government decision, so right now they’re trying to figure out how they can still make [Homecoming] exciting and special.”

Nally said that it would be a challenge to try to replace the fireworks with a completely different idea for Homecoming, since the game is right around the corner. Most likely, the money will go to different things for the school or Homecoming dance.

“If there’s not something we can do when a touchdown is scored or when the [Homecoming] Court is announced, then more than likely, that money would be donated by either going to Common Grounds, or Kids Count,” Nally said. “More than likely, it could go to other service projects of Student Government.”

According to junior Kate Stein, Student Body Treasurer, the money might go in part to decorations for Homecoming, different aspects of the dance, different charitable functions or service projects for Student Government.

Senior Class Vice President Margaret Zhang said she is conflicted by the decision, being a senior and a Student Government member. She said Homecoming already brings a fun and exciting atmosphere to the school, and the cancellation of fireworks won’t kill that spirit. Zhang said she is understanding of the decision and knows the dismissal of fireworks won’t ruin her senior year.

Senior Class Secretary Samantha Crum said that the fireworks were a special tradition, yet the cancellation won’t take away from the Homecoming experience.

Fox-Allen said that the decision to cancel the fireworks was ultimately made by Mason’s administration and insurance agents.

“It was a group of us, administratively in this building, along with the superintendent [Kevin Bright] and central administration [made the decision],” Fox-Allen said.

This year’s Homecoming game needs to be handled with safety and care, Principal Mindy McCarty-Stewart said. According to McCarty-Stewart, safety is a big concern with increasing amounts of fans in the stadium.

“We have to balance the safety,” McCarty-Stewart said. “It’s even more challenging with the increasing sizes of people.”

With Student Government taking the reins, McCarty-Stewart said she fully supports its decision and wants the students to decide where the money goes.

“I want it to be student decided: I just sit and wait for them to make that decision and I try not to get involved with that, because I don’t want my influence to be in on it,” McCarty-Stewart said.

As McCarty-Stewart became informed about the fireworks and safety hazards involved, her decision was made easy, she said.

“I supported the decision: it’s sort of a no-brainer on use,” McCarty-Stewart said. “More or less, the decision is made for us. I know it’s hard — I’m not underestimating it. It would be nice if we could do it just like we’ve been doing it. Again, not to say that it’s been an easy thing each year, [but] we’ve been able to do it successfully and safely [in the past].”

Fox-Allen was one of the big decision makers in the cancellation of the Homecoming fireworks, but she said her reasons are simple: she will fight for the students’ interests and desires, but, safety comes first.

“When kids want something, I think it’s my job to go to battle for that, but just like as a parent, sometimes [you] have to tell your kids no, because of a safety issue,” Fox-Allen said.

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