Astoria is planning its biggest Fourth of July fireworks show ever — even bigger than the surprise display that boomed over the city last year.
But as other North Coast cities cancel annual fireworks shows again because of the coronavirus pandemic or clamp down harder on fireworks restrictions, Astoria could be the only show in town.
“I will happily tell (Astoria Mayor Bruce Jones) that we’re sending everybody his way,” Cannon Beach Mayor Sam Steidel joked at a recent City Council meeting.
The Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, which is organizing the show, has been careful not to broadcast information beyond the local area, said David Reid, the chamber’s executive director. They are encouraging people to watch the fireworks from city parks or their own homes.
The chamber is taking other precautions, too: arranging for larger shells and for the barge where the fireworks are launched to be farther out on the river so the fireworks will shoot higher and the show can be seen far and wide without people needing to crowd along the Astoria Riverwalk.
The chamber canceled its official show last year because of the pandemic, but local businesses later joined together to fund a surprise show.
“We still believe that having an organized fireworks display is safer than not,” Reid said. “And we learned that last year as we saw more of the personal fireworks going on which leads to gatherings in smaller groups and people closer together without the messaging that goes along with (an organized event).”
In Seaside, between the official and unofficial celebrations, the Fourth of July can sometimes feel like a war zone. The city’s fireworks event can draw nearly 50,000 people.
Last year, the official show was canceled because of concerns over the pandemic. The Seaside Chamber of Commerce opted to cancel the show once again this year, citing financial and logistical issues.
“We’re not able to get everything together to make a safe show,” Brian Owen, the CEO of the Seaside Chamber of Commerce, told The Astorian in May.
Cannon Beach leaders had hoped there would be an event in Seaside to draw some pressure away from their city and popular beaches.
In Cannon Beach, fireworks have long been illegal on the beach itself, but the city routinely deals with impromptu, private shows every spring and summer as tourists flock to the coast.
Enforcement has always been difficult, but last year, city leaders took the additional steps of banning all fireworks in the city as well as on the beach and increasing the fine for violators.
Ahead of the Fourth of July, residents plan to put up signs to remind visitors that fireworks are banned.
Fourth of July is weeks away and summer hasn’t even started, but the Cannon Beach Police Department has already dealt with several instances of illegal fireworks.
Someone was able to record a video of a recent incident and pass the information to police. When officers tracked the fireworks to their source, they found 35 people in a vacation rental. Predictably, no one claimed responsibility for the fireworks.
In Gearhart, the Fourth of July parade will return — with social distancing. “We haven’t posted anything but we hope to have the parade back,” Mayor Paulina Cockrum said at a recent City Council meeting.
Elsewhere, the Warrenton City Commission approved its traditional Fourth of July parade, and a fireworks show will be held in Ilwaco, Washington, on July 3. Long Beach, Washington, where Fourth of July fireworks and holiday celebrations on the city’s famous beach have sometimes sparked outrage in the community, has decided not to hold an official fireworks display.
The city canceled the event last year, too, after it was unable to land a necessary permit from Washington State Parks and amid city leaders’ own concerns about the pandemic.
The city puts together its fireworks budget in October, City Manager David Glasson said. With uncertainty at the time about what could be allowed because of the pandemic and the likelihood that festivals and other events would not go forward, the city decided to cancel the event.