The skies over Compo Beach will be dark this Independence Day holiday.
For the second straight year, the annual fireworks display has fallen victim to COVID. The decision was made by town officials, in collaboration with the sponsoring Westport Police Athletic League board.
First Selectman Jim Marpe made the announcement moments ago. The press release says:
Information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current and expected guidance from the State’s Department of Health regarding large-scale events, and the continued uncertainty of the pandemic and its variants have been considered. Based on this information, it is in the best interest of residents, visitors, employees and the organizers to forego this highly attended event this year.
Although mask wearing rules are being relaxed and we are headed toward widespread vaccination, the CDC and other health and government officials continue to recommend social distancing in large gatherings of any kind for the foreseeable future.
Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper said, “The CDC recommends that everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should social distance and continue wearing masks in crowded settings and outdoor venues like concerts and sporting events where you will be around large groups of strangers. In most outdoor scenarios, the transmission risk is low. However, when outside in places where you are likely to be with many people from outside your household, people must maintain social distancing and should still wear face coverings.”
As a practical matter, there is no way to enforce social distancing and mask wearing in the crowded environment of the Compo Beach fireworks event. It is inadvisable to plan for an event like the annual fireworks display where thousands of people congregate in close proximity and cannot socially distance. The possibility of alternative sites was considered, but all of them created even greater concerns regarding accessibility, safety and logistics.
Unfortunately, there is no luxury of taking a “wait and see” approach to determine where the community is in its COVID recovery efforts come July. The logistics and the need for early planning, permitting, and funding, as well as arranging for the display itself, requires significant lead time.
PAL is the longtime sponsor of this annual event, and, although the Town is very much involved in planning and conducting, it is not town funded. The decision as to whether to hold this major, large-scale event needed to be made now, based on the information available at this time, and in coordination with all the organizers.
Marpe said, “I am disappointed that this year Westport could not hold the large celebration we had hoped for. But our town has come too far in our successful battle to overcome COVID to risk a possible setback by conducting a major gathering prematurely. I am happy that this year’s July 4th holiday still offers an opportunity to celebrate safely with smaller groups of families, friends, and neighbors.
“We have had tremendous support from so many individuals and town organizations throughout this past year. It took a community-wide effort to manage this devastating health crisis. We have not yet completed the race, but we are closer to the finish line, and nearing a return to normalcy. I am confident that next year’s celebration at Compo Beach will be the most memorable one in many years.”
Marpe noted that the annual Memorial Day parade will be held as scheduled on Monday, May 31. Crowds along the parade route are less dense, and the event is of shorter duration.