Hoping for better weather next time

Published 6:41 pm Saturday, July 15, 2017

Suffolk’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration seems to be suffering under a curse.

This year was the third in a row in which afternoon and evening thunderstorms contributed to the cancellation of the much-anticipated event. For the past two years, the rescheduled show also suffered because of the weather. Last year it was canceled altogether. And on Friday, the rain date from this year’s doomed Fourth of July extravaganza, a fierce thunderstorm ended in time for a late show, but the electronic equipment needed to coordinate it got wet, and the small crowd that came back out to Constant’s Wharf to see the fireworks saw only a few colorful explosions in the sky before everything ground to a halt, and the event was finally shut down.

Standing with a small crowd at the waterfront on Friday, I felt bad for those who had made a special trip back to the downtown site for a show, only to go home disappointed. I had time to shoot only a couple of photos before the show was finally called due to the malfunctioning equipment, and I was disappointed not to come home with camera card full of neat images.

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But as I packed my camera bag to leave the event, I noticed my new friend Dave, who works for Extreme Pyrotechnics and who had talked to me a little about the frustrations of the past couple of weeks. He was standing alone on the sidewalk behind the Hilton Garden Inn. His shoulders were hunched and his head hung down.

I can only imagine how frustrating Friday night must have been for him. He’d told me after the aborted event on the Fourth that his crew had been ready to go. It is especially frustrating for them when a show gets canceled, he said, because they love fireworks. In fact, they try to get to other shows whenever they can to see if they can get new ideas to incorporate into their own shows.

Everybody, it seems, likes a good fireworks show. Unfortunately, for those who count on seeing that show in downtown Suffolk, the mix of factors that come into play has conspired against them. It was, frankly, surprising that the city didn’t shut Friday’s event down sooner, considering the number of lightning bolts that were crashing down from the skies.

I don’t blame city officials for pressing on — they face a withering amount of criticism whenever folks think they’ve been too conservative in their safety assessments — but even after the storms had passed, there was enough lightning in the sky to give all but the most determined spectators reason to stay inside.

Last week, we wrote on this page that Suffolk might be better off considering Christmas fireworks, and we were roundly mocked on Facebook for having done so. That’s fine. I’ve got thick skin, and I surely understand folks wanting to see fireworks on Independence Day.

But at this point, the best they can do is wait a year — and hope for better weather.