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Legal fireworks show to cap Lewes Fourth of July celebration

June 21, 2018

For the first time in a very long time, Lewes’ daylong Fourth of July celebration will end in a bang – a legal bang, that is. 

The Go Fourth Lewes Fireworks committee is wrapping up planning for the first of what they hope will be many years of Fourth of July fireworks shows on Lewes Beach. 

The inaugural show will begin at dusk Wednesday, July 4. Rain date is Thursday, July 5. The fireworks will be set off from a barge 1,500 feet off Lewes’ main beach at the end of Savannah Road. The 15- to 20-minute show should be visible from Cape Henlopen State Park to at least Roosevelt Inlet, if not farther north. 

“The response has been excellent,” said Paul Evalds, who spearheaded the effort with local business owner Russ Palmer. “People are very excited. It’s heartwarming and satisfying. Part of our mission was to make this a community event.” 

For many years, residents and visitors took it upon themselves to light up Lewes Beach, as some people spent thousands of dollars on authentic fireworks and set them off all along the beach. 

That was put to an end in 2017 after Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio attended a meeting of Lewes Mayor and City Council last spring to encourage city officials to stop looking the other way every year. City Manager Ann Marie Townshend, Police Chief Tom Spell and city staff organized an effort to deter people from setting off fireworks. Police presence on the beach July 4 was noticeably higher than normal, and most cooperated. 

What followed was a workshop hosted by mayor and city council. From that meeting, Palmer and Evalds took on responsibility for organizing a private and legal fireworks display. It was their goal to privately raise all the funds required to put on the show – about $45,000 – a goal they easily met in the following months. 

“We’ve raised a good amount of money,” Evalds said. “It’s all privately funded from businesses and individuals, small checks and large checks.” 

Donations are still being accepted online at www.gofourthlewes.org. Evalds said several people have walked up to him on the street and given him a check. The event is quite involved, with logistical planning for police, fire, EMS, first aid, lifeguards, traffic, parking and more. Evalds said everyone has been very helpful, especially the Delaware River and Bay Authority police, who are also involved in fireworks shows in Cape May, N.J., and the Sussex County EMS, which is involved in other shows in the county.  

The one thing people should expect is traffic. Evalds urges everyone to be patient. “There are only so many ways down to the beach and it’s going to be crowded,” he said. “It’s going to take time. Some people may have to park in town and walk.”

Police and traffic control will be manually controlling at least two lights outside Lewes to move traffic along. Other personnel will be on hand to aid in traffic control too.  The DART bus route into Lewes from the Lewes Transit Center on Route 1 is expected to be running, and additional shuttles may be added as the event approaches. Parking meters will be on until 9 p.m., July 4, as Lewes Mayor and City Council voted at its May meeting to extend meters for just that day.

The Coast Guard and Lewes Fire Boat will be out in the bay monitoring the barge. Boaters are urged to give the barge a wide perimeter for safety and to avoid delaying the show. 

Lewes’ Fourth of July celebration begins with old-fashioned children’s games on Second Street beginning at 9 a.m., continuing with a boat parade in the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal at 2 p.m. Then at about 5 p.m., the Doo-Dah Parade will kick off, running down Kings Highway to the downtown business district. 

For information on the Lewes fireworks show, go to www.gofourthlewes.org or search for Go Fourth Lewes Fireworks on Facebook. 

Some fireworks now legal

When Assistant State Fire Marshal Michael Chionchio attended the Lewes Mayor and City Council June 2017 meeting, he stressed that fireworks of all kind were illegal in Delaware.

That changed May 10, when Gov. John Carney signed a bill that legalized the sale of sparklers and other ground-based, nonexplosive novelty items 30 days ahead of the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve to persons 18 and older. Items that may now be purchased in Delaware include: wood stick and wire sparklers, snakes, glow worms, smoke devices, party poppers, snappers and drop pops. 

Still illegal in Delaware are larger explosives, such as roman candles, firecrackers, torpedoes and daygo bombs.  The bill received unanimous support in both the House and Senate, and small fireworks displays can already be found in local stores.