OCEAN CITY – Resort officials are celebrating the success of Tuesday’s fireworks displays, the first to be held on Independence Day in Ocean City since 2019.
For the first time in four years, the Town of Ocean City hosted its fireworks displays on July 4 with shows downtown and at Northside Park.
After COVID restrictions, accidental detonations and labor issues prompted the cancellation of fireworks displays the last three years, officials reported a safe and successful return of traditional Independence Day celebrations.
“July 4th was a huge success,” said City Manager Terry McGean. “Fireworks at both Northside Park and downtown went smoothly and we have received numerous compliments on the quality of both shows. No major issues from the police side. We did have some significant traffic back-ups downtown after the fireworks but that is to be expected given the volume of vehicles and pedestrians all leaving at once. Overall a great day.”
Tourism and Business Development Director Tom Perlozzo said this year’s celebrations brought large crowds to both the Boardwalk and Northside Park. He said the reception has been “nothing but great.”
“Our team went through some growing pains the last few years with weather and other issues, but we revamped the fireworks displays and had a great turnout …,” he said. “The beach and Boardwalk were packed, there were a lot of people in town, and people were showing up early to Northside Park. So we were very pleased with what we saw.”
On the public safety front, Ocean City Police Department Deputy Communications Manager Ashley Miller said the agency responded to 614 calls for service, with 349 being officer-initiated and 265 being citizen-initiated. In total, the department made 21 custodial arrests throughout the day.
“The 4th of July Fireworks Celebration was a success,” she said. “Our residents and visitors have been anxiously waiting for the return of our annual July 4th celebration.”
Miller also acknowledged the traffic delays leading up to and following the fireworks displays.
“We did see longer traffic delays in the downtown area after the fireworks celebration,” she said. “Particularly coming out of the Inlet lot. While there were long delays leaving the Inlet lot and the downtown area, we were able to get pedestrian and vehicular traffic out safely without any major traffic collisions. Throughout the Town of Ocean City, members of the Ocean City Police Department issued 53 traffic citations, 36 warnings, and four safety equipment repair orders.”
Miller added that officers also witnessed large gatherings of young adults and teenagers on the beach between 120th and 140th streets in the hours following the fireworks celebrations.
“We had a handful of officers and fire marshals dedicated to the beach, alleyways, and Coastal Highway to try to keep the large groups moving,” she explained. “With the large groups, our officers encountered disorderly individuals, noise violations, open containers of alcohol, and illegal fireworks. Once they came off the beach, they would gather in parking lots or alleyways. Our goal was to get them safely back to their nearby residences and/or bus stops along Coastal Highway. We encountered these large gatherings for several hours.”
Ocean City Fire Department Community Engagement Officer Ryan Whittington also reported several service calls throughout the day but noted that Tuesday’s festivities were an overall success.
“We are pleased to announce that Ocean City had a safe and enjoyable July 4th celebration this year,” he said. “The fire and EMS call volume during the 24-hour period of July 4th was comparable to last year, with a slight increase in EMS calls. However, we are happy to report that there were no firework-related injuries requiring our department’s response.”
He continued, “Throughout the day, our dedicated firefighters and emergency medical services personnel promptly responded to various incidents, including multiple trash fires. These incidents were determined to be caused by improperly disposed fireworks material.”
Whittington also recognized colleagues within the town’s public works department, police department, beach patrol, and special events department for keeping the town safe and clean.
“Their collaborative efforts and professionalism greatly contributed to the overall success of the July 4th celebrations,” he said.
For his part, Public Works Director Hal Adkins reported large trash loads and a packed Inlet lot during the Fourth of July holiday.
“From a public works standpoint, it was somewhat uneventful,” he said. “But we had an extremely large trash load on the beach and Boardwalk compared to prior years. In addition to that, the Inlet lot was filled to capacity before mid-morning, and there was a gridlock on Baltimore Avenue leaving the Inlet lot after the fireworks up until 1 in the morning.”
He continued, “Incident wise, all quiet. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we got rave reviews from people who chose to email in.”
Tuesday’s fireworks displays were the first fireworks shows to be held in Ocean City on Independence Day since 2019.
In 2020, the annual Fourth of July fireworks show was postponed during the height of the pandemic over concerns about large crowds gathering in a small area.
In 2021, with COVID waning, Fourth of July fireworks downtown and at Northside Park were set to return, but as the vendor’s crews were off-loading the pyrotechnics from a box truck on the beach at Dorchester Street, one of the explosives detonated unintentionally, causing a chain reaction. The result was a series of explosions that sent a plume of smoke into the sky that could be seen from miles away. Out of an abundance of caution, the town’s Fourth of July fireworks shows downtown and at Northside Park were canceled.
In 2022, just weeks ahead of the Independence Day fireworks, resort officials announced the annual Fourth of July fireworks show would be canceled again, this time due to a labor shortage.