‘Localism’ at Work: Friday Night Fireworks Spark New Hope-Lambertville Economy

[photo from www.bcptheater.org]

The New Hope-Lambertville Friday Night Fireworks drew thousands to its phenomenal finale on August 31. It was a great finish to the third consecutive year of top-notch fireworks on the Delaware.

Like any successful community gathering, this one has brought us together with friends, neighbors and visitors to enjoy not just the main event (which is always stunning), but also layers of local entertainment, from live bands and informal jam sessions to an “indie” film montage and the SPLASH steamboat cruise. Beyond offering a great way to kick off our summer weekends, Friday Night Fireworks also has been working hard on our behalf, providing a much-needed local “stimulus” to the economies of both river towns.

Revitalizing the local economy was exactly the point for the event’s co-founders: New Hope borough council member Bill Scandone, New Hope Chamber of Commerce president Glen Stephan and Nick Gialias, a council member and owner of the Logan Inn. “With the economic downturn taking a toll locally, we were seeking a way to sustainably revitalize the business communities of both New Hope and Lambertville,” explains Scandone, recalling the conversations that lead to the event’s creation. Since both towns are geared toward weekend tourism, with business generally strongest on Saturdays, it was clear that the best opportunity to boost weekly revenues was to create a succesful Friday night event.

Local economic impact

So, with three glorious seasons completed, has Friday Night Fireworks achieved it’s goal? While there’s no formal economic data, event organizers and businesses enthusiastically agree that the fireworks has had the desired effect. The impact falls into a few distinct categories:

  • Friday-night receipts. With a weekly turnout of about 5,000 additional visitors, the fireworks has significantly increased business at local restaurants and eateries as well as those retailers that stay open late to cater to the Friday night crowd.
  • Return business. Perhaps even more important, the event introduces (or reintroduces) visitors to the unique shops and galleries, excellent restaurants and colorful watering holes and music venues that have long distinguished both Lambertville and New Hope. Return visits, whether day trips or overnight stays at local hotels and B&Bs, may represent an impressive “multiplier effect,” ensuring both towns can maximize the tourism income so important to the local economy.
  • Community fundraising. This year, a “Bucket Brigade” of teens spread out across both towns to help raise money for the fireworks. In addition to supporting the event, 50% of the donations went to organizations including local high schools and soccer teams.

A Lambertville Chamber member pointed out that the event also has become a popular business networking scene, offering an informal but effective way to make valuable new connections.

Community builder

Of course, at heart, this is a community event and a chance to enjoy the spectacular work of the well-known Garden State Fireworks. From a locals’ perspective, Friday Night Fireworks also has achieved something harder to quantify, but vital to the community: It’s helped reinforce our enthusiasm for both river towns and strengthen the ties between them.

The 2013 fireworks season may be a long way off, but we can all help keep the local stimulus ball rolling by spending more of our dollars in New Hope, Lambertville and the other river towns – during the upcoming holiday season and beyond.

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