SEBRING - An apparent miscommunication appears to have left this year's Sebring Fourth of July fireworks show rudderless.
As of Thursday, no one appears to have committed to organizing the annual event on Lake Jackson, and if that one major detail is not firmed up in the next three weeks, a new, two-day downtown event will not be held either.
The issue came to the forefront when Casey Wohl, who runs Push Event Productions along with Lora Todd, shared a letter she sent Sebring City Administrator Scott Noethlich March 19 letting him know that if a July 4th fireworks show was not confirmed by April 15, they would have to cancel the Red, White & Blues Festival July 4 and 5, to be held in conjunction with the fireworks.
"As the date approaches for the 'Red, White & Blues Festival'...to celebrate the Fourth of July, we have a concern about the lack of coordination of the annual fireworks display over Lake Jackson," Wohl and Todd wrote. "At this time, we are not aware of any organization, business or entity that has agreed to coordinate, fund or produce the fireworks show this year."
The Sebring Noon Rotary, which has put on the fireworks in the past, told the Sebring Chamber of Commerce it could not do it this year, chamber CEO/President Liz Barber said.
Barber told Highlands Today she contacted Todd in December, who, she said, "showed interest in taking over the fireworks."
The Sebring Chamber's Board of Directors made a motion to let Plan B Productions and Push Event Productions take over the event, Barber said.
Thursday, Todd vehemently denied telling Barber she would organize the fireworks show. She told Highlands Today she told Barber that if nobody was going to organize the fireworks to let them know so they could re-assess holding the Red, White & Blues Festival.
"Nobody wants to do the fireworks," Todd said. "That is a huge undertaking. The private sector is stretched to the max. It is a tremendous job to fund-raise in this economy."
Noethlich could not be reached for comment but Wohl said he told her the issue is scheduled to be on the April 1 City Council agenda.
Wohl said in an email: "We are not doing the fireworks. We only agreed to do the festival and not the fireworks.
"In other cities, like Winter Haven, Delray Beach, etc., the city organizes, pays for and coordinates this fireworks," she said.
Winter Haven has a "leisure services" department with three full-time staff members to coordinate Fourth of July festivities (not just fireworks), holiday festivities, yoga classes and more, she added.
The Red, White & Blues Festival is supposed to have bluegrass and blues concerts, vendors, kids activities, and other things.
Wohl and Todd wrote in their letter the festival would "only be successful with a confirmed fireworks show."
"We hope the City can explore both short-term and long-term solutions to the annual challenge of Sebring's fireworks show," the letter adds.
The same letter was also sent to Highlands County Tourism Director John Scherlacher.
Scherlacher said the TDC and the Board of County Commissioners had agreed to fund $1,000 each to pay for out-of-county advertising for six events, of which the Red, White & Blues event is one.
Scherlacher said he is not involved otherwise with the event, and the notification was just a courtesy letter to let the TDC know that if the event did not happen, they would not spend the advertising dollars allocated for it.
Meanwhile, Barber said the chamber does not directly fund the July 4th fireworks show. They have helped with volunteers, to promote it and helped with fundraisers, she said.