Ghost mall to host Mesa fireworks show The Mesa Tribune | The Hometown Newspaper for the city of Mesa, AZ

Ghost mall to host Mesa fireworks show

Ghost mall to host Mesa fireworks show
Mesa
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BY GARY NELSON
Tribune Contributor

If there’s one place in Mesa where a person can practice social distancing, it’s probably Fiesta Mall.

The hulking old shopping center has been closed for two and a half years, except for a Dillard’s clearance center, and even that now has gone away.

With plenty of elbow room in the parking lots, the mall at the northwest corner of U.S. 60 and Alma School Road might seem like a perfect place to shoot off some fireworks.

And so, it shall be.

Mesa and various community sponsors have moved the Titan Solar Power Arizona Celebration of Freedom out of its usual downtown venue to the mall so that the show can go on with appropriate social distancing to ward off the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The event is scheduled for 9-9:30 p.m. July 4.

Tempe has canceled all its Fourth of July events – including fireworks – while Gilbert, Scottsdale and Chandler are mirroring Mesa’s bare-bones celebration in the belief that it is better than nothing.

Mesa’s show has a history of moving around.

For years the Mesa Sertoma Club sponsored fireworks displays at Mesa Community College, about a mile west of the mall.

For at least one year, in 2009, the celebration went dark during the Great Recession.

Then, former Mayor Scott Smith spearheaded an effort to revive it as the Celebration of Freedom, which featured fireworks shot from the top of city government’s 10-story downtown headquarters.

Beginning in 2014, the celebration moved a couple blocks north to the Mesa Convention Center.

“It’s really been a great location,” city spokesman Kevin Christopher said, “because you’ve got the Mesa Amphitheatre, you’ve got the convention center, you’ve got the whole campus there so you could have activities inside where it’s air-conditioned, you could have activities outside, obviously including fireworks, all the music, all the displays, the Revolutionary War re-enactment.”

All of that has been pared back this year to just the fireworks and patriotic music over the radio provided by event co-sponsor KOOL-FM 94.5 radio.

Christopher said the mall lot has room for about 1,300 vehicles, using every-other space.

People can watch the fireworks either from inside their vehicles or from the vacant spot on their passenger side. The fireworks will be shot from the south side of the mall complex.

If the mall lots fill up, Christopher noted that there are other potential viewing areas along Longmore and Alma School roads and Southern Avenue.

Other sites had been considered, Christopher said, and Mesa didn’t nail down the Fiesta proposal until about June 1.

“We wanted to do something,” he said. “Obviously we wanted to consider safety and social distancing with the pandemic. In this case we were able to keep the fireworks going and doing it a safe way.”

The city is asking people to wear masks if they can’t maintain at least a 6-foot separation between their group and others. There will be on-site toilets that will be cleaned between each use.

And, not unmindful of America’s volatile political mood at the moment, the Mesa Police Department will be on the lookout for possible trouble.

The department issued the following statement in that regard:

“Mesa police will monitor the fireworks show as they have with previous Arizona Celebration of Freedom events and other large city events. If people start to gather in the Fiesta Mall parking lots with signs to demonstrate or protest, they will be asked to move outside the event area.

“This will probably be along Southern Avenue. People can certainly have political signs or symbols on their vehicles as a way of expressing their freedom of speech.”

A few other rules apply:

  No pop-up tents or canopies are allowed.

  No alcohol, glass bottles, weapons, outside fireworks, laser pointers.

  Bicycle riding in the event area is prohibited.

  Only ADA-approved motor scooters or carts are allowed.

  No weapons, no outside fireworks such as sparklers, and no clothing with gang-related colors or symbols.

  No smoking or vaping.

Despite the limited nature of this year’s event, Mayor John Giles said the city was happy to do what it could.

“We are proud to maintain a Fourth of July tradition in Mesa by presenting an amazing drive-in fireworks show you can safely watch from inside or just outside your car,” Giles said in a statement. ′

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