STATELINE, NV - Could there be a 4th of July without fireworks? That is the question the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority must answer Thursday evening at an emergency board meeting.
It could be a devastating decision for the area. The famous fireworks show draws about 100,000 people to the area every year, and each person brings a much needed boost to businesses already suffering from a lackluster winter.
"It has been a difficult winter and some of our businesses are really dependent on that July 4th weekend to give them the boost that they need to sustain throughout the rest of the year," Tahoe Chamber CEO B Gorman said. "I've heard from a number of our business owners and they are more than concerned. They are really very, very nervous."
This decision is in light of a lawsuit filed by Joseph and Joan Truxler in November. The Zephyr Cove couple claims debris from the 4th of July and Labor Day fireworks show is polluting the lake.
The Truxlers claim they collected firework remains on Pinewild beach after the July celebration and again in September after the Labor Day show. According to the lawsuit, some of the debris had the name of Pyro Spectaculars North, Inc., the company that provides the fireworks, written on it.
But there are other shows around the lake during the 4th of July weekend mostly put on by municipalities. There are even private fireworks displays helping celebrate the nation's birthday.
"My understanding is some of the debris collected is not from the LTVA's show" Groman said. "The fireworks are made from a different material than what the public can buy at roadside stands, so that is how they can tell the difference."
Since the lawsuit was filed against the LTVA and Pyro Spectaculars, the parties have been in mediation, but talks fell through earlier this week. Not the LTVA board has to decide if they want to get behind the $100,000 event.
According the the LTVA, the 4th of July and Labor Day fireworks shows have met all of the state and federal standards for 30 years.
"Our businesses here understand better than anyone the importance of protecting the lake and go to enormous lengths to protect the lake," Gorman said. "I can tell you the businesses are in a word offended that someone would assert that this activity and our concern for the lake is not first and foremost."
But it's not just the fate of the show at stake. The main concern is if the show doesn't go on, lake area businesses already suffering from a mild winter will not get the tourism boost they desperately need. With 4th of July on a Friday this year, businesses are hoping to attract more people to the event to help them through the year.
"The economic impact that this will place on our businesses is really too enormous to measure," Groman said. "We have the most popular fireworks display west of the Mississippi. It's a very significant weekend for our businesses, large and small. So this is alarming."
KOLO 8 News Now reached out to the Truxler's lawyer for a statement. He has not yet responded to that request. But in a prepared statement, the Truxlers said it is not their intent to halt the fireworks displays but to ensure Tahoe is protected from any detrimental effects.
The LTVA board will make its decision at an open meeting Thursday at 4 PM. The meeting will be held at 169 Highway 50 in Stateline.
If the board decides to pull its sponsorship of the event, someone else could step in and put this year's show on. But even if a sponsor can be found, it could be difficult to find another company willing to provide the fireworks with an ongoing lawsuit in the picture.