The Show Must Go On: Council Has Little Interest in Banning Fireworks at Football Games

It appears we will not see a repeat of what happened just before last year’s football season, where an apparent miscommunication between Canby’s outgoing city administrator and the school superintendent caused the district to — briefly — cancel its long-standing tradition of using fireworks to celebrate touchdowns at high school football games.

The district reversed itself and reinstated the practice a few days later. But the public outcry was remarkable, and often, ugly. Local city and school officials were inundated with angry calls and emails.

Moderators of the Canby Now Facebook group also had their hands full, to say the least, as the decision to nix the fireworks displays without public input or involvement was rebuked in every way, and in some of the ferocious and colorful language imaginable.

Supporters of the tradition formed their own private Facebook group and began circulating an online petition that attracted more than 750 signatures.

But, we recovered.

It all started with a request from Canby resident Paul Ylvisaker, who lives two blocks from Canby High School and suffers from chronic pain and PTSD that the random and unexpected explosions exacerbate.

He presented a letter from his doctor verifying this condition, as well as a petition signed by over 50 other residents, two veterinary clinics and a senior care facility. He asked the city council to change the local noise ordinance that allows the school district to use fireworks at football games and other sanctioned events.

Ultimately, the football team was given the go-ahead to move forward with the tradition intact and — unfortunately for Mr. Ylvisaker and other residents who oppose the booms and bangs — with a reinvigorated offense that scored almost four times as many points as they had the previous season.

Since then, Ylvisaker has returned to the City Council on several occasions, renewing his request and demanding action of some kind.

At the city’s last meeting, Mayor Brian Hodson checked his colleagues’ pulse for revisiting the noise ordinance, and to a member, there seemed to be little appetite for change.

Some, like councilors Tryg Berge and Shawn Varwig said simply that they think the ordinance is fine the way it is. Others, like Council President Tim Dale and Councilor Traci Hensley, said they’d be willing to have a discussion, but didn’t expect it to change their minds.

Councilor Sarah Spoon echoed those sentiments, saying she does empathize with Mr. Ylvisaker.

(“I really empathize with the gentleman who came in,” she said. “It hurts my heart anytime he comes in. If there’s an appetite for a conversation, I’d have it, but I’m not sure my position would change overall.”)

Other councilors agreed, saying they felt they “owed” him a conversation and some closure on the matter.

Councilor Spoon asked if there might be room for some sort of compromise between the various parties — what she termed a “win-win” — such as the district using quieter fireworks, but Mayor Hodson said his understanding was they are already using the “least percussive” type of aerial fireworks on the market.

Given the overall direction, Mayor Hodson said he would work with city staff to place the noise ordinance on a future agenda for discussion.

Photo credit: Gideon Francke (with significant editing by his dad).

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