Advertisement

Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at tampabay.com/coronavirus. Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. News
  2. /
  3. Health

Clearwater cancels July 4 fireworks show, one of the area’s largest

Concerns over crowd management and keeping attendees six-feet apart prompted the decision. Alternatives, like a secret launch site, were considered.

CLEARWATER — The city has canceled its annual July 4 fireworks show, traditionally one of Tampa Bay’s largest and most watched displays, as a precaution to prevent large crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Clearwater police officers have already been providing extra patrols on Clearwater Beach to enforce social distancing since Pinellas County reopened the beaches after a six-week shutdown. And with the difficulty of keeping fireworks watchers six feet apart, considering the crowds that gather each year in downtown’s Coachman Park and Clearwater Beach for the show, the City Council on Thursday voted unanimously to scrap the display.

“Once the people are in the park or on the causeway or wherever we have it, it doesn’t matter how many police officers we have, it is not going to be fair or safe for either our citizens or our officers to deal with that situation,” Mayor Frank Hibbard said. “I think it’s tragic and disappointing but I think it’s the right call.”

On Friday morning, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor also announced the city would likely cancel its Boom by the Bay fireworks and entertainment celebration. Her spokeswoman Ashley Bauman said that the city is considering a virtual fireworks show, but nothing definite has been decided.

Clearwater had considered alternatives to canceling the show altogether. Kris Koch, Clearwater’s manager of special events and athletics, said one option was to work with neighboring cities, like Tampa, St. Petersburg and Dunedin, to host coordinated fireworks displays where deployment locations would not be disclosed ahead of time.

Clearwater Police Chief Dan Slaughter, however, worried the locations would be leaked out, making crowd congregation an issue. Koch also outlined options for hosting multiple fireworks locations throughout the city to encourage smaller groups. A memo from Koch also included a drive-in option, where the city could open a lot on a first-come, first-served basis.

Each alternative had drawbacks, from unintended traffic backups to logistical complications and police manpower issues.

Slaughter said he is expecting this year’s daytime July 4 patrol on Clearwater Beach to be “a difficult and complicated and manpower-intensive role” as officers work to manage the large groups expected for the holiday. He said a fireworks show at night would create more of a risk.

Also Thursday, the organizers of fireworks displays in Siesta Key and Sarasota announced each would cancel their events this year.

“It pains, I think, a lot of us to even think we might have to pass on this but I think there would be significant crowd management issues that would just be a lot to ask I think in the current environment,” Slaughter said. “To come out and put another monster on the backs, it really could be a big demand."

• • •

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus coverage

GET THE DAYSTARTER MORNING UPDATE: Sign up to receive the most up-to-date information.

SO YOU WANT TO LEAVE YOUR HOUSE? Read these 10 tips first

DID YOU TEST POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS? A Tampa Bay Times reporter would like to talk to you.

WHAT’S OPEN?: This list includes local establishments doing business in various ways.

LOCAL RESTAURANTS: The updated database of Tampa Bay restaurants open for dine-in or takeout

UNEMPLOYMENT Q&A: We answer your questions about Florida unemployment benefits

LISTEN TO THE CORONAVIRUS PODCAST: New episodes every week, including interviews with experts and reporters

HAVE A TIP?: Send us confidential news tips

We’re working hard to bring you the latest news on the coronavirus in Florida. This effort takes a lot of resources to gather and update. If you haven’t already subscribed, please consider buying a print or digital subscription.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Advertisement
Advertisement