‘This Is Not a Done Deal’: Football Fireworks Remains Topic of Discussion Amid Public Outcry

Though the Canby School District released a statement Tuesday saying they would no longer use fireworks at high school football games, the matter appears far from settled, especially after the outcry of many residents lamenting the loss of the longstanding tradition.

Tuesday’s statement was in response to a letter from Canby City Administrator Rick Robinson, who shared the concerns of local resident Paul Ylvisaker. Ylvisaker lives near the high school and suffers from chronic neck pain and PTSD, which are exacerbated by the random blasts (a condition that was verified in a letter from his doctor).

Ylvisaker had also collected about 50 signatures from his neighbors, as well as two veterinary clinics and a senior care facility, in a petition asking the high school to find a quieter and less intrusive way to celebrate their football team.

The district has an exemption in the city’s noise ordinance specifically allowing them to use fireworks at school-sanctioned events, so Robinson’s email to Superintendent Trip Goodall was only a request, not an order. Evidently, Trip didn’t see it that way.

“I believe Mr. Goodall read my request as a directive and acted in a manner consistent with his understanding,” Robinson told the Canby Now Podcast on Wednesday. Indeed, Tuesday’s statement from the superintendent used the word “directive.”

So…where exactly do things stand now, with the home season opener only nine days away? Um…insert *shrug emoji* here?

There are a lot of angry, upset and confused Canby residents, for one thing. The district’s announcement just about broke the Canby Now Facebook group Tuesday afternoon, as hundreds reacted to the news, the clear majority seemingly on the side of “keep the fireworks.”

A countermovement quickly formed with the goal of doing just that, and an online petition was soon being circulated. Many expressed dismay that the decision had come about so quickly, based on a single petition and a relatively small group, and seemingly without the input or direction of elected officials or the general public.

“A lot of kids (and adults) work really hard to make these games happen, from the football team to the band and the cheerleaders and many others,” said Brian Haines, owner of the Canby Music Store, a Canby School District parent and a CHS grad (class of ’97). “I have not seen enough opposition to warrant a ban. You can get 50 people to sign just about anything. The vast majority are against this.”

“This is about principle,” Katherine Christiansen, another resident and local business owner, agreed. “If this is all it takes to get the fireworks at the high school nixed, what little will have to be done to take away the 4th of July fireworks at Trost, or the Canby Rodeo? There are a lot of people who live over by the Fairgrounds, too!”

At least one school board member does not believe the matter is settled, and he said he expects it to be on the agenda for discussion at the next scheduled meeting (Sept. 18) or perhaps the next work session (Sept. 5).

“This is not a done deal,” said Vice Chair Mike Zagyva. “You can trust me on that.”

He said the school board would also hear and consider public comments on the issue at either meeting, though their policy is to only listen, not respond directly.

Also up in the air is the status of the fireworks themselves, and the necessary permits to fire them. The permits, which cost $500 (the pyrotechnics are donated by Western Fireworks in Aurora), is fundraised by the Canby Booster Club.

Given the clear understanding that fireworks would not be used this season, club secretary Debby Haring says she has already reached out to the fire marshal to see if the money can be refunded. She also said the club was not notified about or involved in the decision.

“We found out from your podcast, like everyone else,” she said.

For his part, Robinson said he hopes the discussions continue, and a positive outcome is reached.

“I would hope that some compromise will be possible that is both sensitive to the needs of those adversely affected by the fireworks and also provides the attendees at football games the opportunity to enjoy fireworks,” he said.

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