Fireworks Spectators Can Enter the Promised Land of Shows

Spectators watch the fireworks over Lake Isabella during a past Fourth of July show. PHOTO BY AARON CRUTCHFIELD


By Catherine Stachowiak, For Scenic 395

With places to watch fireworks becoming rare, in California, one nearly has to visit the “bad place” to see a planned program. Still there is at least one good place like paradise left for the premium Independence Day fireworks-show seeker.

Without attempting irreverence, one could say this promised - land begins where north meets south, in a location of natural beauty and mountainous splendor. The place to see the best fireworks is the recreational haven of Kern County, the Kern River Valley, where Lake Isabella basks near an artsy community and the pleasant tourist-welcoming town of Kernville.

“The big draw for visitors is that we have kind of a unique show. It’s one of the only ones, if not the only one in California that is allowed in the national forest, with all the concern about starting wild fires,” said businessman Steve Spradlin, who has planned the fireworks show in Lake Isabella annually for many years. “In our case we get a pass on that because of the venue that we use, which is Engineers Point and happens to be in the middle of Lake Isabella.”

Spradlin explains that Isabella Lake, where the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce holds its fireworks show, is a buffer preventing the fireworks from reaching the forest or anything flammable.

The vast majority of all fireworks shows are put on in smaller venues, such as golf courses, stadiums, or places where they’re restricted on the size and types of fireworks that the planners can use. One could never shoot up rockets 600 or 800 feet in the air in a residential area, whereas at the lake, Spradlin has the freedom to take liberties that even Francis Scott Key would be proud of.

The closest spectator viewing the show is probably a quarter mile away. And the furthest is probably 3 or 4 miles away or further, according to Spradlin. And the fireworks have to be larger and more visible for a distant audience.

“We shoot off anywhere from a three inch shell to an 8 inch shell,” he said. “This year we’re going to move up and actually have some 10 inch shells in it (the show,) which is about the largest we’re legally able to shoot.”


For people wishing to financially support the event, the community’s cash register round up has been the highly successful fundraiser previously. Spradlin said, “Not only does it raise the funds but it raises the awareness of the fireworks and gets the whole community involved in paying for it. So they’re so much more excited about the fireworks that they’ve helped support over the year.”

This year the planners implemented something new to the cash register roundup. Physical posters at the registers, like billboards, will show who made sizable donations for fireworks, encouraging customers and businesses to participate in a competition for donating. “We will certainly post anybody that wants to participate. We do have a minimum of $25 donation to be able to be posted on our bulletin boards,” Spradlin said.

Spradlin advises fireworks viewers to make reservations for lodging accommodations well in advance of the Fourth. There are plenty of Airbnbs, aside from the local motels, however camping reservations are not quite as competitive.

The Saturday closest to the Fourth of July is always the date the planners set for this spectacular event.

“Our audience has grown tremendously in the last several years, because there has been more and more places that previously did shows, that financially cannot keep up with the increasing costs of a show,” said Spradlin. “Plus with the fire dangers in California there’s fewer and fewer places to watch fireworks. And ours has grown quite a bit. We’re one of the largest shows there is.”

Spectators view the show from around Isabella Lake. What could be better than watching a supreme, 100 % aerial show in an atmosphere of lakeside campgrounds?

The cost to viewers cannot be beat. The show is literally free of charge to everyone. And even better, parking continues to be free, to every vehicle. “There is no charge for parking, because the Forest Service and campground concessionaire wave the parking fees, only during the show,” Spradlin said.