Local July 4th celebrations dodge weather


DOVER — Despite a brief downpour in the afternoon and the fireworks display being moved forward about 40 minutes, the Dover Fourth of July celebration escaped any major setbacks this year.

The city of Dover has been dogged with misfortune when it comes to its firework display the past couple of years. Two years ago, a fireworks crew experienced a mishap that caused the grand finale chain of fireworks shells to go off just before the show was set to start. That sent the entire show off course.

Last year, thunderstorms forced the cancellation of the Fourth of July fireworks, and they were delayed until Labor Day weekend.

Greg Patterson, president of Dover’s Fourth of July Committee, wasn’t thrilled about bumping the fireworks forward, but was pleased the word got out quickly.

“We always want things to go exactly as planned, but the biggest factor is the weather and we can’t control that,” he said. “We went a little early because it looked like it was going to start raining again around 9:30, but we reached out quickly on social media and it seems like word got out, because we had a good crowd and it was a great show.”

Mr. Patterson’s concerns about the weather were justified, it turns out. Intermittent showers hit the Dover area shortly after the just-under 30 minute display wrapped up its grand finale.

A Dover native, Mr. Patterson has been coming to the local fireworks since he was a child. He’s been the committee president for about 10 years and was a regular committee member for about six more years before that.

“My dad, Gary, was on the board too, and they wouldn’t let him leave until he had a replacement. That ended up being me,” he said. “I just have always really enjoyed the fireworks. It’s a great family event and I’m pleased to be a part of it.”

Mr. Patterson looked to his own children for inspiration this year when it came to the music selection to accompany the fireworks. The selections were pulled from the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” a hip-hop musical about founding father Alexander Hamilton.

“My daughters are huge fans of it, and it really fits in well with Independence Day,” he said.

The fireworks display, provided by Serpico Pyrotechnics of New Jersey, costs about $16,000, Mr. Patterson said. Total price tag for the night, including sound equipment, Porta Potties and other equipment hovers close to $23,000.

The event is funded by private donations from local businesses, organizations and citizens.

The display usually draws about 10,000 people to the Legislative Mall, but on Tuesday night, there were likely a bit fewer because of the rain, Mr. Patterson said.

Of course the fireworks are always the main attraction, but throughout Tuesday event-goers had plenty of entertainment options.

There were a host of other historic-related events and other attractions scattered around Legislative Mall and The Green throughout the day starting in the afternoon including, a patriotic parade, fair cuisine on offer, pony rides and carnival games.

North of Dover, in Smyrna, the Fourth of July celebration kicked off in the morning with the 9:30 a.m. parade. Hundreds of residents lined the intersection on Commerce and Main streets as military and emergency response personnel paraded through downtown, followed by public officials such as Gov. John Carney, Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, U.S. Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester.

Carl McKline of Cheswold noted that he appreciates how Central Delaware puts in an extra effort to make the Fourth of July an “actual celebration.”

“My wife and I are from a small town in Illinois originally,” he said. “They did their best, but it was usually like a quick 10 minute firework display in town and that was it. It’s nice bringing our daughter to the parades, fireworks and Legislative Hall. We’re establishing it as a family tradition to basically spend the whole day celebrating. There’s lot of stuff going on and it’s a great atmosphere. It’s also just a historic place to celebrate America.”

Watching the parade bedecked in an American flag sun dress, scrunchies and flip-flops, 6-year-old Rose McKline shyly explained that her apparel choices were in honor of a specific founding father.

“My dad said American flag clothes were George Washington’s favorite to wear,” she said.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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