OCEAN CITY — While there won’t be fireworks shows in Ocean City on the Fourth of July on Monday, the resort is promising a series of bookend events to help ensure the holiday weekend is a success.
Last week, resort officials announced the vendor for the annual Fourth of July fireworks shows had backed out at the last minute over labor issues. Resort officials, including the special events staff, scrambled and came up with some alternatives for the holiday weekend, although there will be no fireworks on the Fourth of July in Ocean City for the third year in a row.
In 2020, the annual Fourth of July fireworks show was postponed amid the pandemic and fears large crowds would congregate in a small area. In 2021, the Fourth of July fireworks downtown and at Northside Park were scheduled, but as the vendor’s crew was off-loading the pyrotechnics from a box truck on the beach at Dorchester Street the morning of the holiday, one of the explosives detonated unintentionally, causing a chain reaction that set off other fireworks and the scene. Out of an abundance of caution, the planned shows downtown and at Northside Park were cancelled.
In April, the Mayor and Council approved a three-year contract with a new vendor, American Fireworks Company, for shows on the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve for a total of $318,000. The contract included a $100,000 commitment for this year, $106,000 in 2023 and another $112,000 for 2024.
However, last week it was learned American Fireworks Company could not honor its commitment for the Fourth of July because of labor shortage issues. It remains to be seen if the cancellation represents a breach of the town’s contract with the company. City Manager Terry McGean said on Monday the contract issue is a legal matter on which town officials cannot comment.
As a result, town officials pivoted in a different direction to help ensure the holiday weekend will be a memorable one for residents and visitors despite the lack of fireworks again on the Fourth of July.
At the close of last week’s Mayor and Council meeting, McGean elaborated on the news to the elected officials, who were already well-aware of the situation via a press release.
“As you know, the contractor we had for the Fourth of July fireworks has backed out on the town at the last minute,” he said. “We have been able to schedule some replacement events.”
On Sunday, July 3, an intimate Independence Day celebration is planned in conjunction with the typical Sundaes in the Park event, featuring a 7 p.m. concert by Mike Hines and the Look, followed by a condensed fireworks show produced by the Celebrations Fireworks Company. On Tuesday, July 5, at 8 p.m., Salisbury resident and American Idol star Jay Copeland will take the stage at Northside Park for a concert as part of the town’s revised Fourth of July celebration.
Also on July 5, Ocean City will feature live music on the beach downtown beginning at 8 p.m., with an abbreviated, but more intense fireworks show beginning at 9:30 p.m. The show will be a departure from Ocean City’s traditional Independence Day fireworks show and will include pyrotechnic elements from Celebrations Fireworks Company.
The July 5 show promises to be roughly the same in duration at the typical Fourth of July show, but will be much more intense and lower than the traditional show, which will make the optimal viewing area between the pier and 3rd Street downtown. McGean explained the altered show at the close of last week’s meeting.
“We have a fireworks show that will be different,” he said. “Our normal show is 2,500 shells. This show will be 15,000 shells. It’s much more intense, but it will be lower. It will be 300 feet versus 500 feet. We’re going to have Jay Copeland from American Idol with a concert at Northside Park on July 5.”
Special Events Director Frank Miller provided more details about the planned July 5 fireworks show on Monday.
“Consider the fireworks display on July 5 to be similar in duration, 18 minutes essentially,” he said. “During that time, we will launch three times as many display shots into the sky as compared to our typical July 4 show.”
Miller said the condensed, but more intense show set for July 5 should delight residents and visitors despite the date change.
“Everyone loves a good fireworks finale,” he said. “Well, we’re starting with that fast pace. Shells will launch to a maximum altitude of 300 feet and will be colorful and full of life. The actual finale will noticeably intensify further into absolute mayhem, and I mean that in a good way.”
Miller promised another element at the July 5 show that is different from the town’s traditional Fourth of July fireworks display.
“To top it off, we have a new ground-based effect that has not been used on our beach in decades,” he said. “It will be worth the experience if you are within a few blocks of the display site.”
In years past, the town has altered the parking rates at the Inlet lot on the Fourth of July in a variety of ways. Most recently, the town has raised the hourly rate at the Inlet lot from the standard $3.50 per hour to $5 per hour on the Fourth because of the increased demand. However, with the fireworks postponed on the Fourth next week, McGean last week suggested keeping the parking fee at the existing standard on the holiday next Monday.
“One of the things we’ve done in the past on the Fourth of July is raise the rates at the Inlet lot from $3.50 per hour to $5 per hour,” he said. “I would submit that given everything we’re doing now to try to salvage or possibly improve on our normal show that we may want to not raise the rates at the Inlet lot and leave it at the standard $3.50 rate.”
Meanwhile, there will still be other fireworks displays in the area on or around the Fourth of July. The town of Berlin will host its Independence Day fireworks display on Sunday, July 3, from Heron Park. Ocean Pines will host its annual Independence Day fireworks celebration at Veterans Memorial Park on the actual Fourth of July next week. The Delmarva Shorebirds will launch celebratory fireworks in honor of Independence Day following its regular home game on July 4.