City will not have Independence Day fireworks thanks to COVID-19

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There will be no city-sponsored fireworks display in Apopka on July 4 thanks to COVID-19.

Citing issues with enforcing social distancing during the nighttime event on Independence Day, the City Council decided not to have Mayor Bryan Nelson sign the contract with Zambelli Fireworks, meaning Apopka will join cities all across Central Florida that are canceling fireworks shows for July 4.

“I want the fireworks. I’d love to have the fireworks, but for me, it boils down to, I don’t want to put our staff in a position where they’ve got to force people to do something at night, in the dark, and there may or may not be alcohol involved, I just think it’s a recipe for disaster,” Mayor Nelson said.

“I’ve talked to the chief (Police Chief Mike McKinley) and I know he’s not in favor of it. I know that Brian Forman (recreation director) is not in favor of it and, quite honestly, I’m not.”

Other members of the City Council agreed that the city staff’s opposing having the event was paramount in their decision.

“If the staff recommendation is there’s not a comfort level there, I respect that,” Commissioner Kyle Becker said. “Combined with the fact that we’re living in a different world than we were two weeks ago even and none of us up here has a crystal ball of what’s going to transpire over the next month, so I fully respect the decisions of staff.”

Commissioner Alice Nolan said, “I think, in the best interest of the community, that we don’t do it. I think that it’s not a scare thing. It’s not anything else other than why put our citizens in that position or staff in that position that things could easily go awry.”

Commissioner Doug Bankson said, “I think the valid points were our liabilities obviously and there is, technically, a window because it is an outdoor event, but the biggest thing weighing upon those who have to police that event and oversee that puts them in a difficult position to oversee that, so I think that has to weigh heavily on should-we.”

Commissioner Alexander Smith said he would make a motion after Becker spoke, but then Mayor Nelson said that a motion wasn’t necessary since the city wouldn’t be signing the contract with Zambelli.

Nelson did say that he hopes to be able to have a large celebration complete with fireworks on Labor Day.

“I just think now is not the time and, quite honestly, I think that we as a city, I’d love to do a big thing for Labor Day, to get all the bells and whistles,” the mayor said.

Commissioner Nolan agreed with Nelson.

“We did the Labor Day thing before (in 2018) and everybody loved it. I don’t see why we couldn’t do the same this year. Make the adjustments and go with the flow on that.”

The city will use the $25,000 budgeted for the July 4 fireworks show for the Labor Day event.

Two years ago, fireworks didn’t go up at the city-sponsored event at Northwest Recreation Complex, but it had nothing to do with a pandemic as the company hired to put on the show, Creative Pyrotechnics, had technical issues, but originally blamed the weather on the lack of a show.

To make up for the lack of a fireworks show on Independence Day in 2018, the city hired Zambelli Fireworks to put on a show on Labor Day that went off without a hitch.

The story appears on page 1A of the Friday, June 12, edition of The Apopka Chief. Subscribe today!