Dover’s Fourth of July fireworks eager to bring back the bang

DOVER — The fireworks display that lights up the skies over Legislative Hall is always the main draw at Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration, encouraging the requisite “oohs” and “ahhs” from adults and children alike.

However, those sounds of delight turned to groans last year after a mishap in the launching area disrupted the fireworks and accidentally set off the grand finale chain of shells just before the show was about to start.

It went from there to worse, as the show took nearly twice as long to run as it should have and got out of step with its musical accompaniment.

Greg Patterson, president of the Fourth of July Celebration Committee Inc., is confident the crowd’s focus will return to the majesty of Dover’s 40th annual fireworks show on Monday night, when the fireworks will be launched at around 9:20.

“We’re going to take a few more precautions and change of vendors was one of them,” Mr. Patterson said. “Last year, we had an unfortunate accident that turned out to be fortunate in that no one was injured. We’re just planning to do better this year.”

Dover has put on a Fourth of July fireworks show in the state’s capital since the American bicentennial year of 1976.

Mayor Robin R. Christiansen believes the fireworks will be successful this year.

“Those guys are going to have an A-plus show,” Mayor Christiansen said. “It will be another great day for all of us to celebrate being Americans.”

The fireworks are just a part of an event that costs from $23,000 to $24,000 to run with a budget that also includes things such as sound systems, portable toilets and more. It is mostly made possible through donations and the efforts of volunteers.

This year, Serpico Pyrotechnics out of Toms River, New Jersey, will serve as the fireworks vendor. Mr. Patterson said the company has conducted numerous fireworks shows at beach towns in New Jersey and also featured fireworks at Delaware State University football games the past couple of years.

They will replace Zambelli Fireworks, out of Walkersville, Maryland, which was not rehired this year and Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration Committee received a partial refund from last year’s event, though Mr. Patterson was unsure of the exact amount.

Serpico Pyrotechnics will launch Monday night’s fireworks to the accompaniment of music from the Broadway smash “Hamilton.”

“We’ve had music accompany the fireworks for the past several years and we try to do a different theme each year,” Mr. Patterson said. “We’ve done fireworks with songs from movies, songs from 1980s, songs about summer and other themes.

“As we were thinking about it this year we thought of the popularity of ‘Hamilton.’ Not only does it feature great music, it also talks about the founding of our country and the Revolutionary War and that’s what the Fourth of July is all about, so we thought it was perfect.”

Mayor Christiansen said the Fourth of July is more than just fireworks to him, though he does enjoy watching them. It is about celebrating our nation’s history.

“Just two blocks from my office marks the spot where this great nation started and this year marks the 229th anniversary of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution,” Mayor Christiansen said. “If you go down and put your hand on that plaque at the Golden Fleece Tavern [on the Northeast corner of The Green and State Street] and look at how America spread out, you get a chance to realize that we have been at the middle of the greatness of this country.”

Mr. Patterson did stress that Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration is organized by a group of volunteers who spends six months each year raising funds and planning the event. The city, county and state all provide logistical support.

There is still time to become a sponsor. Businesses, families and individuals can purchase anywhere from Star ($2,000). Stripe ($1,000), Red ($500), White ($200) or Blue ($100) sponsorship levels.

People can also Adopt-A-Firework, in which for $17.76 each, an individual will receive an “adoption” certificate with the number of the firework he or she will own for the night. More information is available at

“Any amount of donations we can get would be helpful,” Mr. Patterson said. “We had our challenges last year but we have always, at least in my experience over the past 15 years or so, gotten the [fireworks] off, even through issues like storms, high winds and other things.

“Come Monday, we’ll spend all day watching the weather and watching the crowd and then we’ll make sure we put on a good fireworks show.”

That would certainly bring back the “oohs” and “ahhs.”

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