Carole Schweid is a longtime Westporter, former Broadway performer, author of “Staged Reading Magic,” artistic director of the popular lunchtime play-reading series Play With Your Food, and a fireworks fan.
However, she writes:
I always loved the closely packed beaches on the 4th of July. I enjoyed the food, the crowds, didn’t even mind the traffic. It was a community celebration, and it felt like everybody showed up.
I look forward to doing it again — but not this year.
We all know that this is not the time to gather large crowds anywhere. And certainly not groups packed together on a beach … after dark … trying to stay warm.
Pre-fireworks scene at Compo Beach, pre-pandemic.
I can’t think of any good reason why we would want to create such unnecessary risk, even with so many people vaccinated (the state of Connecticut is doing a great job). Even if you limit the number of cars, it’s a mob scene. There wouldn’t even be a way to supervise the basic things we’ve learned about protecting ourselves, like masking and social distancing — especially after dark.
It’s becoming easier to forget that there is still a pandemic going on. We have to pay attention to how we behave. As far as I can see, there are so many good reasons not to have this event. I can’t think of any good reasons in favor of it.
One could also argue that it may not be appropriate – this year, at this time – for our town to be spending our money on fireworks when so many Fairfield County families need food.
We are a generous community.. I’m thinking our time and our money could be better spent.
Today is the day that most of us would be preparing food and drink, joining friends, and enjoying the ultimate Westport experience of our Annual July 4th fireworks at Compo Beach.
Many of you would typically continue that celebration through the holiday weekend and into the upcoming week. Unfortunately this year, we can’t gather as we typically do to celebrate our nation’s independence.
Although COVID has restricted our ability to gather, we can’t forget that the July 4th holiday is more than fireworks, parties, and picnics. Instead, it can serve as an opportunity to reflect and re-direct the energy we may have spent in those celebratory rituals.
This year let’s be innovative in how we celebrate with close family and friends, staying at home and enjoying each other’s company. Consider taking the time to acknowledge that all of our brothers and sisters, no matter their race, creed, color, religion, sexual orientation or gender expression, deserve the same independence we cherish in Westport.
While there are those who continue to struggle, we must learn from the mistakes of the past, and move forward in a concrete, firm, resolute manner to make the positive changes in our community that reflect the current conditions of this 2020 world.
Town departments, health and safety officials, and local community volunteers and leaders continue to coordinate and advance the deliberate phased reopening plans. This insures that the difficult decisions that minimized and contained the virus were not in vain. Westport is on the right track, moving forward, cautiously and carefully, but with resilience and hope.
I encourage you to continue this positivity and show your community spirit by engaging in the #ilovewestport campaign. Please check out #Ilovewestport; let us know why you love Westport and how you will commit to making a difference during these changing times.
Personally, I plan to show that “I Love Westport” by committing to wearing a mask out of respect for all my fellow Westporters, by promoting policies that ensure social distancing, by prioritizing health and safety during reopening, and by supporting our local businesses. And I commit to engaging in ongoing dialogue that will make all our residents, visitors and businesses feel safe and welcome in Westport.
Let’s celebrate this holiday with hope, imagination and a sense of community. Whether speaking about phased and gradual implementation for reopening, to the difficult but necessary discussions about racism and policing, we are a community of resilience, a community of love and hope, and a community of history with the means to affect true change in how we govern and interact. I look forward to gathering once again in the near future, with all the necessary steps to keep us safe and healthy, to celebrate our strength and fortitude, and to celebrate our independence.
Thank you, Westport, for your continued cooperation and patience. We are in this together and we will get out of it together – stronger than ever before. I hope that you have a healthy, happy, and innovative Fourth of July holiday. Please enjoy yourselves and continue to be safe.
Always ahead of the curve, Westport celebrated the 4th of July with early fireworks last night.
It was a Friday. The sky was deep blue; the temperature was perfect. The sunset was gorgeous.
This is why we live in Westport.
The calm before the storm. Except there was no storm -- only gorgeous weather and festive crowds.
Okay, it wasn't all perfect. There was plenty of "saving spots" -- despite regulations against the practice.
Parks and Rec director Stuart McCarthy earned his pay, collecting tickets at the entrance to Compo. Most drivers -- like this one -- were in a festive mood. Some had attitudes. Westport has its share of Very Special People.
The light and colors were fantastic yesterday. This is my iPhone camera; imagine what a real photographer could have captured.
Compo Beach was like an Arab souk yesterday. Everything 4th of July-related was for sale -- with proceeds going to the PAL.
Back in the day, a 4th of July picnic meant sandwiches in a hamper. Now everyone feasts on international cuisine. Hot dogs, anyone?
Ned Batlin and Serenety Dobson -- 2 of the many police officers, EMTs and other personnel keeping the crowds safe.
Soundview Drive is one place to be for the fireworks. The woman on the balcony is conducting a fife and drum corps, which entertained along the closed-to-traffic road.
Old-time Westporters -- and a young police officer -- enjoy the evening.
A sparkler, a glowing necklace, a beach and fireworks -- it doesn't get any better for a kid.
Special treat: For The Heart — Westport’s great group of young, community-minded singers — gave a great concert by the cannons. Click the video below to watch them perform “Life is a Highway.”
What do fife and drum members do before marching at the Compo fireworks? Have intense discussions, apparently.
It’s Westport’s best party of the year — by far.
Thousands of men, women and children — especially children — descend on Compo like Patton’s army: well-organized, disciplined, fully in control.
They trudge off several hours later like Lee’s troops after Appomattox — carrying what they can, leaving the rest behind.
In between is a festival, a happening, an all-American event — with, of course, a Westport touch. Flags and bunting fly from multimillion-dollar homes. Sushi and champagne share picnic tables with hot dogs and soda.
Beachgoers enjoy the post-cloudburst sun and sky.
For more than a month, Westport had been trapped in an endless “Annie” loop. The sun would always come out tomorrow. Yesterday, the sun really did come out — mostly. It was a fine day — until 6:15, when a drenching rain blew in from nowhere. The sun never stopped shining — it was an almost cartoonish cloudburst — but thousands of folks covered their sushi and hot dogs, then ran for shelter.
It was all over in 5 minutes, followed by the obligatory rainbow. Five minutes later, everyone was dry.
The Balloon Man -- Steven Marcinuk -- wows young fireworks-goers.
Back in the day, the fireworks were simply that: 20 minutes of noise and color. Over the years it’s morphed into a show. There’s entertainment galore — including, this year, a group of teenagers singing show tunes. They performed by the cannons, which is where long ago the fireworks were fired from. That must have been before someone realized fireworks can be lethal, and moved them onto a barge.
The barge now bobs scenically offshore, surrounded by 5 or 6 squintillion boats. It’s a lovely scene, joined this year by a lighted sign saying “Lydian.” They’re the official fireworks sponsor, perhaps the least demanding sponsor in corporate history. All they ask is 1 little sign. All of Westport should say “thanks” to Lydian Asset Management. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt if we handed all our investments to them either.
I’m not sure whether Lydian, Westport PAL or town officials were in charge of providing the spectacular near-full moon backdrop for the fireworks. Some of the pyrotechnics seemed to actually frame the moon, or explode from within it. Whoever took care of that — it was a great touch.
Andrew Lott and Riley Andrews fly patriotic colors on their Sportster.
Then it was over, and the great migration began. Thanks to that nearly full moon, it was clear to see the beach was a pig sty. Polite people hauled their trash to the overflowing barrels. The rest left blankets, umbrellas, tables, chairs and mountains of food right where they were.
But an amazing thing happens each year. Parks and Rec immediately deploys an army of workers. Patton-like, they get the job done. And if you go down to Compo this morning, it will look like nothing at all happened last night. The sand will be swept; the cans emptied.
These are not Westport fireworks. I found this image on the web. If I didn't tell you, though, you'd never have known.
Happy 3rd of July!
As Westport readies our own unique celebration — we shoot off fireworks any time between the 1st and the 6th, but never the 4th — here are a few thoughts, tips and reminders for tonight:
Plan ahead! Want a coveted South Beach picnic table? Get there early. A rule of thumb is a couple of hours earlier than whatever you think is reasonable. Be a good do-be, and designate (or hire) an actual human being to hold the fort. “Reserving tables” with ghost tablecloths, balloons and flower vases is not cool.
Be ready to move. In mid-afternoon, a well-choreographed vehicular ballet takes place. All cars must vacate the beach at 4 p.m.; only folks holding fireworks tickets can drive back in at 5. Some people try nefarious tricks to avoid paying the $30 per car fee. That’s just wrong. Fireworks cost money — these don’t come from some roadside stand in South Carolina — and all proceeds benefit the Westport PAL. NOTE: Tickets must be purchased in advance, at the Longshore Parks and Rec office during business hours, and at police headquarters any time.
Enjoy the show. And by “show” I mean entertainment and people-watching. There is usually a marching band, and an imported fife-and-drum corps. This year’s added attraction: For the Heart, a group of show tune-singing teenagers, performs at the cannons at 6:45 p.m. Wherever you plant yourself, take time to meander along the beach, seeing and being seen. The street scene on Soundview Drive is particularly lively. This is Westport “community” at its best.
Let your children go. Unless your kids are 2, don’t worry if they wander off with friends. Independence Day is all about freedom. There’s nothing better for a Westport child than to roam the beach with buddies, surrounded by (but blissfully apart from) other happy people of all ages. And in today’s cellphone and GPS-enabled age, it’s not like anyone can get lost. NOTE TO TEENAGERS: When the fireworks start, sit down and watch. Making cell calls — and texting — is not an appropriate way to honor our country.
Forget the weather. Face it: Summer will arrive in June of 2010. Pack an extra layer; throw some rain gear in with the watermelon and Pampers, and chill (ho ho). A couple of years ago clouds rolled in at exactly 9:15, and the fireworks were less than fiery. Most people took it in stride; a few boneheads demanded their money back. After what we’ve been through the last year, a bit of rain on our 3rd of July parade is the least of our worries.
Stick around when it’s over. Yeah, leaving the beach makes I-95 look like the Indy 500. But it lasts for only an hour. Don’t race to your car as the last firework explodes. Stay where you are; relax; enjoy the evening. Your kids don’t need to get to bed (tomorrow’s the real 4th), and you don’t need to stress out in the parking lot. If you’re not driving: Open that extra bottle of wine!
Happy birthday, America. At 233, you’re better than ever!
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