Shaw AFB cancels Jammin’ July 4th

bmarchant@theitem.comMay 14, 2013 

— The annual Fourth of July fireworks show in Sumter’s Dillon Park has been canceled because of military budget cuts.

Jammin’ July 4th, put on by the 20th Fighter Wing at Shaw Air Force Base in cooperation with the city of Sumter and Sumter County since 2001 at Dillon Park, will not take place this Independence Day, the base announced in a news release Tuesday.

“Due to budget constraints Team Shaw is unable to host Jammin’ July 4th this year at Dillon Park,” Col. Clay Hall, commander of the 20th Fighter Wing, said in the release. “The Sumter community has provided phenomenal support to Shaw AFB and its military personnel at this event for many years, and I’d like to thank every person that has had a hand in its success.”

Since the early 1990s, Jammin’ July 4th has attracted spectators to Shaw and later Dillon Park for fireworks, carnival rides and vendor foods. The base estimates up to 35,000 people have attended the event.

Sequestration cuts that came into effect in March have hit the military especially hard. The Air Force alone must cut $14 billion from its budget this year. At a breakfast with local business leaders at Shaw last week, Maj. Gen. Lawrence Wells, commander of the Ninth Air Force, said Sumter’s base will cut flying hours for its pilots by 18 percent because of sequestration, after previously reducing hours by 25 percent in anticipation of cuts in funding.

The annual Shaw Air Expo usually held in the springtime, which drew 50,000 spectators from across the state and beyond as recently as 2010, was also canceled this year. Aerial demonstration squadrons such as the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds, who performed at last year’s expo, have been grounded for the year, as has the 77th Fighter Squadron since its return from Afghanistan last month.

Defense cuts could cause ripples beyond the military community. At the May 8 breakfast, Wells told his audience 2,300 civilian employees of Air Force installations in South Carolina face up to two weeks of unpaid furloughs this year, which could remove $11.3 million from the state’s economy.

On July 3, Shaw will host a replacement, picnic-style event for base personnel, but without fireworks. Canceling the fireworks will save an estimated $16,750, said Shaw Public Affairs officer Capt. Ann Blodzinski.

“We’re just going to have a family event on base by the pool,” Blodzinski said. “Fireworks are really the most costly thing. We’re still working on what we’re going to do instead.”

In light of sequestration, no government funds will be spent on the on-base event, with Shaw depending on private donations and sponsorships to cover any cost.

“In my office, we’re down to our last six reams of paper,” Blodzinski said, “so there’s really no way you can do fireworks.”

It was unknown Tuesday whether any other events might be scheduled in Sumter to make up for Jammin’ July 4th’s cancelation.

Reach Bristow Marchant at (803) 774-1272.

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