People watch Thunder on the Bay Fireworks from Legion Memorial Park on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

People watch Thunder on the Bay Fireworks from Legion Memorial Park on Wednesday, July 4, 2018 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

City to get refund after tech issues foil Everett fireworks show

Onlookers in Everett parks expected a 20-minute fireworks show for the Fourth of July. The show had to be canceled.

EVERETT — The city of Everett’s big bang went bust.

The city’s Fourth of July fireworks show fizzled Tuesday night due to an “irreparable technical issue,” according to a city bulletin.

The pyrotechnics display, known as the Thunder on the Bay fireworks show, is one of the biggest in the region, according to a city website.

Expecting a 20-minute show of gushing lights, cascading colors and booms, hundreds of spectators gathered or pulled up camp chairs at the Port of Everett, Legion Memorial Park, Grand Avenue Park and other choice viewing spots.

But after a blast or two, the show went up in smoke.

The show’s producer, Western Display Fireworks in Canby, Oregon, said Wednesday morning, it is not sure exactly what transpired.

“We won’t know until we get the computer back and it’s analyzed,” said Heather Gobet, Western Display’s president and owner. “Something happened with the software program.”

Software programs have been orchestrating fireworks displays for decades, Gobet explained.

“We are absolutely devastated and sick and sorry,” Gobet said. “To the citizens of Everett, I want to apologize.”

Her regrets will be accompanied by a refund.

“We’ve issued a 100% refund to the city to cover all the costs and the barge,” Gobet said.

On Wednesday morning, city officials confirmed the refund.

“The vendor is overnighting a full refund of what had been paid towards the show — $37,500 — and they are paying for the tugboat services and all other production elements associated with the show. They are extremely apologetic about the situation,” city spokesperson Simone Tarver said in an email to The Daily Herald.

The city struck a $75,000 deal with Western Display to produce the Fourth of July spectacular, Tarver said.

The contract includes the cost of mortars, supplies, tugboat, labor and computer choreography.

The 70-year-old family-owned company has been producing Everett’s fireworks shows since 2012. Western Display also supplies the fireworks for Seattle’s Seafair and Tacoma’s Freedom Fair, Gobet said.

“The show was supposed to be 18 minutes long and of the same magnitude as our past shows,” Tarver said. They have a “very experienced pyrotechnician, who has executed hundreds of shows over his 23 years with this company.”

Tarver said the company tested the program multiple times and ran redundant computers, “so if they did encounter an issue, the second computer could take over and fire the show.”

The backup system appeared also to have failed, Western Display’s Gobet said.

“We are so appreciative of everyone that came out to the festival, as well as the volunteer-led parade, yesterday,” Tarver said. “We apologize for any inconvenience. While it is disappointing that the fireworks show had to be canceled, it was still great to see the community come together to celebrate Independence Day.”

Everett’s fireworks show was canceled in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and resumed in 2021.

Fireworks are banned in Everett, Mukilteo, Mill Creek, Lynnwood, Marysville, Edmonds and Mountlake Terrace and elsewhere.

The safest way to really enjoy fireworks is a professional display, city and fire officials say.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097;; Twitter: @JanicePods.

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