NARRAGANSETT - The glowing and vibrant showers of light over Narragansett Town Beach and “oohs and aahhs” in admiration of them will not happen this year, as the town has cancelled its Fourth of July fireworks display due to concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic. The health crisis has put a stop or forced changes to other summer events in Narragansett, including the annual Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra performance on the beach and the Blessing of the Fleet Road Race, and the town joins a number of other communities around the county, state and nation cancelling their Independence Day fireworks shows due to potential overcrowding and inability to maintain social distance between attendees.
“We consulted with Jim [Tierney, Narragansett Town Manager] and, because of the governor’s projections on large, large crowds, we felt that if we were the only town that was having fireworks, we did not want create a burden by having so many people in attendance, particularly with social distancing,” said Narragansett Parks and Recreation Director Steve Wright.
While the state is expected around July 1 to enter the third phase of its reopening strategy, which will expand limitations on capacities for outdoor public events, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo recently announced that any municipality holding a public event that anticipated over 250 attendees to coordinate with the state.
The annual fireworks show in Narragansett, a collaboration between the town’s parks and recreation department and the Dunes Club, typically attracts thousands of people to Narragansett Town Beach, its parking lots, the nearby sea wall and the surrounding pier area at large, many capping off a hot beach day with the dazzling display. New health and safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including maintaining six feet of social distance between people, have forced many local and area municipalities to cancel the annual holiday tradition, including South Kingstown, which this week cancelled its Independence Day show planned at Old Mountain Field.
Many, across the nation, state and on the Town of Narragansett’s Facebook page, have questioned why town officials simply cannot instruct attendees to remain in their vehicles during the fireworks display, a point Wright addressed in comments Wednesday.
“Even though we could have people be able to view them from their vehicles - the beach, seawall and the town would just be inundated with people and there’d be a burden not only on the police and fire departments, but rescue services as well,” he said. “We made this decision a while ago, but if I had to do it again today, I would. Even though the numbers are being increased to 150 people [for outside public events in Phase 3], we wouldn’t be able to do that.”
There has also been an increase in the number of complaints regarding fireworks being set off in residential neighborhoods this year, perhaps a symptom of the decrease in public movement and activity spurred on by the pandemic. The Town, on Tuesday, issued a reminder to residents that only ground and handheld sparkling devices were legal in Rhode Island.
“These devices are ground based or hand-held devices that produce a shower of white, gold, or colored sparks as their primary pyrotechnic effect,” wrote the Narragansett Police Department. “Additional effects may include a colored flame, an audible crackling effect, an audible whistle effect, and smoke. These devices do not rise into the air, do not fire inserts or projectiles into the air, and do not explode or produce a report.”