Tag Archives: 4th of July fireworks

Friday Flashback #199

Today was supposed to be the 4th of July fireworks (which Westport traditionally celebrates before Independence Day — we’re always ahead of the crowd).

Here is some of what we’ll miss:

(Photo/John Kantor)

(Photo/Ted Horowitz)

(Photo/David Squires)

Here is what we won’t miss:

COVID Cancels Memorial Day Parade — And Fireworks

If you didn’t think the coronavirus crisis was real, today’s announcement from 1st Selectman Jim Marpe brings it home. He says:

It is with great regret that we must announce that due to the COVID-19 crisis, the town of Westport’s annual Memorial Day parade and July 4 fireworks have been canceled. Unfortunately, many nearby communities have made similar decisions to cancel their summer events.

Both events draw hundreds of participants and thousands of onlookers each year. In an abundance of caution, and with the health and safety of our community at the forefront of our perspective, it is only appropriate that we notify the public well in advance that these scheduled events have been canceled.

The decision to cancel does not come without reservation or sadness from all our public officials. However, the current environment dictates that we determine the best way to manage these types of events in the future. We cannot make assumptions at this time on whether or not it will be safe to congregate in any size crowd, much less ones of this magnitude, by the end of May or the beginning of July.

Westport’s Memorial Day parade doesn’t get more classic than this. (Photo/Doris Ghitelman)

The Memorial Day Parade and the following ceremony at Veterans Green, organized by the Westport Veterans Council and Westport Parks and Recreation Department, was to be held on Monday, May 25.

The town of Westport will always remember the ultimate sacrifices made by so many service men and women in defense of our freedoms. We plan for an alternate virtual event for Memorial Day to honor our veterans, and commemorate those selfless soldiers who gave their lives for their country. Details will be forthcoming.

Speeches on Veterans Green by grand marshals — like Larry Aasen, above — are among the most meaningful parts of Westport’s Memorial Day celebration. (Photo/Ted Horowitz)

The Westport Police Athletic League-sponsored Independence Day fireworks was scheduled for July 2, 2020. This family outing annually draws thousands of attendees to Compo Beach and the nearby neighborhoods for an evening of fun and fireworks.

“The PAL had to make a difficult decision regarding the Independence Day fireworks. Please understand that organizing an event of this magnitude requires not only a significant amount of pre-planning, but also a financial commitment that must be made several months in advance. With the uncertainty surrounding current restrictions on large gatherings and when these might be lifted, it would be ill-advised to plan an event which may ultimately not be possible and safe to execute,” said PAL president Ned Batlin.

Although the fireworks celebration will not be held this year, the community will be encouraged to remember and celebrate the spirit of the Independence Day holiday in their own private way.  We are confident that soon, the crisis will be lessened and we will once again be able to hold these longstanding community events.

Please be assured that when that time comes, they will be organized with effective pre-planning, precision and with abundant public safety considerations. Thank you for your continued understanding and commitment to maintaining the health, well-being and safety of our entire community.

A timeless scene — and one we won’t see this year.

PAL Fireworks And Parking Passes: The Back Story Many People Miss

Since 2003, Westport PAL has awarded over $400,000 in college scholarships.

In the past few years they’ve donated $153,000 to the Field of Dreams turf field project, $49,000 to Westport Baseball and Softball, $23,000 to Special Olympics, $15,000 to the Compo Beach playground, and hundreds of thousands of dollars more to many worthy, kid-related causes.

Each year, they help sponsor the 4th of July* fireworks. They are allowed to sell a maximum of 2,000 Compo Beach parking passes. The cost — $35 per vehicle — has not risen in years.

Last year, they sold fewer than 1,900. Yet an estimated 15,000 party-goers thronged the beach, for the best community event of the year.

You do the math.

A small portion of the very large crowd.

Westport PAL was organized in 1948. A few years later, they started the fireworks tradition.

It takes a ton of work. The volunteer organization partners with the Westport Police, Fire and Parks and Recreation Departments; EMS; Fireworks by Grucci — and many others — to make the event a smash.

About 20 years ago, PAL offered to hand it over to the town. First Selectwoman Diane Farrell said thanks, but no thanks.

Everyone — including out-of-towners — pitches in to make the fireworks a success.

The fireworks is PAL’s biggest fundraiser of the year. Proceeds help run programs in football, lacrosse, basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, rugby and track. They impact thousands of boys and girls each year.

In addition to the recipients of PAL money listed earlier, recent donations include $24,000 for health and wellness programs, $20,000 for lights at Staples High School, $5,000 for wrestling mats, $2,000 for a WWPT-FM Wrecker Radio tent, thousands to Staples’ Gridiron Club — the list goes on and on.

The fireworks is a true community effort. Melissa & Doug — the internationally highly regarded, locally owned children’s toy company — generously covers the cost of the actual pyrotechnics each year. (Grucci offers 3 levels. Westport’s is the top-tier.)

Happy birthday, America! (Photo/Suzanne Sherman Propp)

But PAL picks up other costs: the barge ($15,000 a day). The Cobra marching band, with Sapphire dancers. The Nassau County bomb squad. Food and drinks for police, fire and Parks and Rec workers (beyond what Jersey Mike’s provides). This year, PAL is even springing for a new barge mooring.

PAL president Ned Batlin, and past president/current vice president Sam Arciola, are both Staples grads. They grew up going to the fireworks — and playing PAL sports.

They want Westporters to know: Those $35 parking passes are not a ripoff.

They’re a bargain.

Parks and Rec operations supervisor Dan DeVito helps collect tickets. The process is quick and easy.

Last year’s non-sellout — despite the packed beach — was part of a trend. Some fireworks-goers arrive by Uber. Others park — as far away as the Children’s Community Development Center on Hillspoint Road — and walk in.

Of course, there are people like the homeowner on Soundview Drive. Like many neighbors, he throws a huge fireworks bash every year.

But he also buys 30 parking passes, and gives them to guests. He wants to support PAL; he doesn’t want friends to freeload.

Party on Soundview!

“One of our longtime executive directors, PJ Romano, used to say, ‘It’s all about the kids,'” Batlin says.

“PAL — and the fireworks — is all about local police and citizens who really care about the town, and everyone in it. We want to keep doing what we’re doing. But if we don’t sell out, it really handcuffs our ability to help.”

That’s the back story too few people know. So pony up, Westporters. PAL needs you to buy those fireworks parking passes.

They’re available at the Parks & Rec office in Longshore (opposite the golf pro shop) during business hours, and 24/7 at police headquarters (50 Jesup Road). You can pay by cash or check (“Westport PAL”).

If — er, when — they sell out, you can buy a pass to park at Longshore. Dattco donates buses, which shuttle back and forth to the beach from 5:45 to 11 p.m.

With a police escort.

*Okay, the 3rd of July. You know what I mean.

Westport’s fireworks are timeless. This shot is from 2016. (Photo/Patricia McMahon)

Pop-Up Pyrotechnics

Westport has welcomed pop-up outdoor dining.

A pop-up Halloween shop.

Now — just in time for July 4th — we’ve got a pop-up fireworks stand.

It popped up in the parking lot of the Rio Bravo/Julian’s shopping center — the one near Maple Avenue that was once anchored by Pier 1.

Of course, this being Connecticut, you can’t get the real, big, honest-to-goodness finger-losers here — not in the parking lot, or anywhere else in the state.

For those, you have to go to Pennsylvania.

You know: the Keystone State.