Florence Fourth of July Fireworks in Doubt

Fireworks on the Fourth of July is usually the highly anticipated culmination of a day of celebrating America’s Independence from England 243 years ago. Family picnics and neighborhood barbecues are staples of the holiday and from the beginning of the republic these celebrations featured extensive after dark pyrotechnics.

In 1870, the U.S. Congress declared July 4 a federal holiday, although unofficial celebrations of America’s independence had included fireworks from the beginning.

In 1776, John Adams, one of the nation’s founders, suggested a pyrotechnics celebration was warranted by the significance of the event.

“I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding generations, as the great anniversary festival. … It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forever more,” wrote Adams, who served as president of the United States from 1789 to 1797.

On July 8, 1776, the first public readings of the Declaration of Independence were held in Philadelphia’s Independence Square to the ringing of bells, band music and fireworks. One year later, on July 4, 1777, Philadelphia marked Independence Day by adjourning Congress and celebrating with bonfires, bells and more fireworks.

These are just some examples of the central role that pyrotechnics, explosions and fireworks play in the country’s collective Fourth of July celebrations.

Unfortunately, the chance that Florence will be able to stage its popular fireworks display is in doubt due to the lack of an approved base from which to launch the explosives.

The annual fireworks show is sponsored and paid for by the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce. The situation surrounding this year’s display is different than the previous two years, in that the barge that was used to launch the fireworks has been relocated and other staging arrangements have yet to be finalized.

According to Chamber Executive Director Bettina Hannigan, one of the main issues is a requirement that there be a clear, 500-foot area surrounding the staging platform. This requirement is proving to be difficult to provide.

“I’d say right now it’s about a 50-50 chance that we will be able to figure out the logistics and the legality of this process, and then be able to find a way to make this happen by the Fourth of July, which is our goal,” she said. “Currently there is no barge available to launch fireworks from and the 500-foot clearance is prohibitive to launch from property around the port and Old Town area.”

Dave Huntington, manager of the Port of Siuslaw, is also unsure if there will be fireworks this year.

Huntington points to the sale of the privately-owned barge that was used the last two years to stage the display as the main reason for the concern.

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