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Fourth of July fireworks? Yes, but you've got to know where to look

Fourth of July fireworks? Yes, but you've got to know where to look

Canalside Fireworks

Fourth of July fireworks explode over the Buffalo River in 2017.

If there is such a thing as a quiet Fourth of July fireworks display, Lewiston hopes it happens there.

After initially calling off the display because of concerns over Covid-19, the village last week decided to go ahead with the show after all.

But Mayor Anne Welch said she doesn't want a lot of people to know about that, because she's afraid of residents flocking to Lewiston from the many other communities that have canceled their Independence Day fireworks.

"I'm trying to keep it a little low-key so that we don't get mobbed with crowds," Welch said in an interview.

Few governments or private entities are still putting on their annual fireworks displays this weekend. That's because they're afraid too many people will come together to watch the shows without the social distancing recommended during the coronavirus pandemic.

The big shows at Canalside in Buffalo, Kenney Field in the Town of Tonawanda, Niawanda Park in the City of Tonawanda and at the University at Buffalo's North Campus in Amherst are among the numerous shows scrubbed for 2020.

In fact, the Town of Tonawanda later proposed putting on a pair of smaller "surprise" fireworks displays at two town parks before announcing Tuesday that concerns over public safety had led officials to scrap those shows as well.

An informal survey of communities throughout Western New York found some other displays set to take place on July Fourth — in Mayville in Chautauqua County; at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville; and at the Transit Drive-In in Lockport, for movie-goers who pay regular admission fees — with organizers hoping the public acts appropriately.

"People have to be smart," said Jane Eshbaugh, a spokeswoman for the ski and golf resort in Cattaraugus County.

Municipalities reconsider as outbreak eases

Most of the decisions to cancel fireworks shows were made when the Covid-19 outbreak was at its peak in this area and across New York. In the weeks afterward, however, as the coronavirus eased its grip here, some communities began to reconsider.

The Town of Tonawanda, for example, announced in mid-May that it was canceling its popular fireworks show held each July 3 at Kenney Field. But in recent weeks, officials began to brainstorm whether the town could safely set off fireworks in a different format, said Councilman Bill Conrad, the Town Board's liaison on parks and recreation matters.

The town settled on the idea of two shows both going off at 10 p.m. Thursday at locations the town would wait to publicize until that same day to limit crowd size. The town wouldn't put any taxpayer money toward the shows, because it still had the original fireworks sponsorship money from Coca-Cola, Conrad said.

The Town Board on June 22 approved the displays after checking with veterans' groups in the town to make sure they knew in advance what was happening and with town police on public safety concerns.

The resolution didn't say from where the fireworks would be set off, but a contract with the pyrotechnics company said one site was Lincoln Park and the other was Brighton Park. As word of the displays spread on Facebook and elsewhere, town officials fielded complaints from pet owners and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder worried about the noise, Conrad said.

"We'll learn. We'll have to do something different. We'll have to go back to the drawing board," said Conrad, who left open the possibility of trying again in the fall.

Lewiston, however, decided it could safely change its mind about Fourth of July fireworks.

The village plans to set off the display from the plateau that leads into Artpark. Welch said she hopes people watch the fireworks from their backyards, from vehicles parked along and off Center Street and while observing social distancing at Academy Park.

Welch said she would prefer the revived fireworks plans receive little advance publicity but police, fire personnel and volunteers will keep an eye on the public to make sure they stay far enough away from others watching the fireworks.

Welch said the idea is to provide something to cheer people up following the public health crisis that has upended daily lives.

"We're trying to give a little bit of normalcy back," she said.

The nonprofit organization that puts on Mayville's annual Fourth of July celebration canceled the parade and related activities but said the fireworks would go off over the north end of Chautauqua Lake.

Holiday Valley's Fourth of July fireworks typically follow a concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and are a highlight of the resort's summer music festival.

The festival, including the concert, is canceled this year because of Covid-19, but the resort will set off the fireworks from a new, more elevated position atop Cindy's run so that they are visible from a wider area, Eshbaugh said.

She said Holiday Valley officials hope people will view the display from inside or near their cars parked at the resort or in downtown Ellicottville.

"It's drive-in fireworks, like they have drive-in church," Eshbaugh said.

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The cities of Tonawanda, North Tonawanda and Lockport on Friday announced they are canceling their planned July 4 fireworks displays because of worries over the Covid-19 virus. The Twin Cities July 4 celebration features activities in both Niawanda Park in Tonawanda and Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda, drawing large crowds to both venues as well as boaters in the Niagara

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