By Logan Dubel
Independence Day celebrations will once again look different in Ocean City this year, after town officials received unexpected and unfortunate news. The firework company hired to provide fireworks for July 4th festivities in the resort informed the town last week they will be unable to staff the events as planned, leaving local leaders in a twist.
Although the staffing issue was out of the town’s control, City Hall employees rushed to find a solution that will ensure Independence Day remains a major celebration.
“You know what they say when things don’t go as planned,” commented City Manager Terry McGean. “You make a new plan, which is exactly what we’ve done.”
While the Town of Ocean City may not celebrate the nation’s founding exactly on July 4th, the holiday week will not pass without major festivities.
So, when will the resort celebrate? July 5th will be the new July 4th in Ocean City, with fresh plans for downtown festivities and spectacles.
Music will begin at the Caroline Street Stage at 8 p.m., and a modified fireworks show will start at 9:30 p.m. The fireworks presentation, provided by another vendor, Celebration Fireworks, will be visible from the pier to 3rd Street, but likely not beyond, and will include a few surprises and new elements. The spectacles will be lower to the ground as well as more intense and colorful.The original show would have set off 2,500 shells going as high as 500 ft., but this show is lower elevation going up to 300 ft., but firing 16,000 choreographed shells.
“We wanted to make sure that we did something to still celebrate Independence Day in Ocean City,” said Council Secretary Tony DeLuca. “After the pandemic and then last year, it was important to us to ensure that we still had a fireworks show, even if it wasn’t right on July 4th.”
The resort’s updated plan also includes a free concert by American Idol Star and Salisbury native Jay Copeland at Northside Park on Tuesday, July 5th, at 8 p.m. There will not be fireworks at Northside Park following this concert.
Earlier, on Sunday, July 3rd, Ocean City’s Sundae’s in the Park series will continue with a concert by “Mike Hines & the Look” at 7 p.m., followed by a fireworks show at 9 p.m.
“It’s definitely disappointing that the fireworks vendor cannot perform as they had previously committed to,” said Council President Matt James. “While we won’t be able to have fireworks on the 4th of July this year, I do appreciate the efforts by town staff and our partners to make sure the events on the 3rd and the 5th will be enjoyable for all that attend.”
At Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, James questioned how the city will hold the vendor accountable for the major cancellation, especially considering that families planned their vacations around the expected fireworks show. City Solicitor Heather Stansbury responded that she already has plans to investigate that question in the coming days.
The City Manager echoed James’ sentiments.
“We faced a bit of a twist this year, but our staff was determined to put on Independence Day celebrations our residents and visitors could enjoy,” continued McGean. “Although we would have loved to host our traditional celebrations on July 4th, I think the spirit of Independence Day will have the same great impact no matter what day we celebrate. This year we have three great ways to celebrate, including a free concert by Maryland’s very own American Idol, Jay Copeland.”
This is not the first year that Ocean City has had to shift its plans for Independence Day. In 2020, the town canceled official fireworks shows due to the pandemic, and in 2021, a fiasco with fireworks vendor Starfire Corporation involving a premature explosion forced an unexpected cancellation, leading to great frustration. Thankfully, while plans have changed once again for 2022, there will still be fireworks to honor America’s 246th birthday.
Following the 2021 incident, the town searched for a new fireworks vendor, before settling on Ohio-Based American Fireworks in April. The $318,000 contract included July 4th and New Year’s presentations for 2022, 2023, and 2024. At the moment, it is unclear how the cancellation will impact the current terms of the contract, but American Fireworks has indicated to officials that their team is still on for the remaining shows included in the agreement.
Seacrets, also recognized for its major fireworks presentation each year, will not hold a show this year amidst labor shortages and extreme costs. In 2021, the popular bar, which relied on the same vendor as the town, also canceled its show out of an abundance of caution.
Neighboring towns including Berlin and Salisbury will still hold their regular festivities as planned.
Berlin will host fireworks at Heron Park beginning at dusk on July 3rd. Picturesque viewing areas aside from the park include the Dunkin Donuts parking lot at 113 and Old Ocean City Boulevard, along with Sonrise Church on westbound Route 50 in Berlin.
Nearby Salisbury will host the massive 7th annual Red White and BOOM event on July 4th at the James M. Bennett High School stadium. Gates open at 6:15 p.m. and the fireworks will officially begin at 9:15 p.m. The spectacles are visible from all across Salisbury.