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Carrabelle votes to cancel Fourth of July fireworks

David Adlerstein
The Apalach Times

On Thursday evening, Carrabelle joined Apalachicola is deciding not to go ahead with Independence Day weekend fireworks.

By a unanimous vote, the city commission decided it would not be wise to move forward with a proposal from a Central Florida pyrotechnics firm to have fireworks either on Friday, July 3, or Sunday, July 5, the two available days.

Mayor Brenda La Paz said the proposal outlined a show that would last 15 minutes if fired from a barge, and 17 minutes if the fireworks were launched from the dock.

The price tag would have been $10,000, twice that of the allocation in the city’s current budget, which splits the cost between city monies and those of the Community Redevelopment Agency.

“There’s no way possible we’ll get all these people to to sit in their cars,” said Commissioner Keith Walden.

La Paz said Police Chief Gary Hunnings told here that traffic would be “a great challenge,” since the show would likely have been the only one between Tallahassee and Port St. Joe.

"It would overwhelm us, it would be a nightmare,“ said Commissioner Tony Millender.

The mayor said St. George Island’s Blue Parrot is in the process of deciding whether to hold its traditional fireworks display, which she said runs about $7,000, on the beach on July 4.

Carrabelle had already nixxed a show through Tallahassee-based Ashley Pyrotechnics, its longtime provider. The mayor said the company, for the first time, required a hold harmless waiver agreement, pertaining to the coronavirus, and that City Attorney Dan Hartman advised the city against it.

She said the city’s insurance coverage won’t cover communicable diseases, a typical exclusion in all policies that would leave the city liable for such claims.

Commissioners said they believed the city would be unable to enforce CDC guidelines for social distancing, as well as terms in Gov. DeSantis’ most recent executive order calling for gatherings of no more than 50 people.

City officials said they now plan to weigh whether to hold a possible fireworks show on Labor Day weekend, which would be in this budget year, or to move its $5,000 allocation to the upcoming fiscal year and use it to fund a show for Veterans Day.

The commission also voted to open all the city parks, with appropriate signage advising people about social distancing and other measures. They opted not to open the bathrooms, however.

“Most Independence Day celebrations and fireworks shows surrounding Carrabelle have been canceled or postponed, which would result in huge crowds and an overwhelming amount of traffic for a show in Carrabelle,” said La Paz. “This large amount of traffic would be difficult to manage at best.”

Apalachicola Main Street last week announced that it would be postponing its Independence Eve celebration, normally held on July 3 each year.

The St. George Island Business Association has announced its plans to cancel its traditional July 4 parade that weaves through the island, citing concerns about crowd gathering during this time of the coronavirus.

In a news release issued last week announcing Apalachicola’s Main Street’s decision, Board Chair Jim Bachrach said that “in consultation with city officials, local law enforcement, downtown business leaders, and others, we have come to the decision to postpone this event out of respect for public health.”

Main Street is currently making plans to move this event to Labor Day weekend, to be held on Saturday, Sept. 5. Carrabelle has said that if it goes forward with a Labor Day weekend fireworks display, it would be held on a different day than Apalachicola’s.

“We will continue to evaluate the status of the pandemic as we move forward,” said Bachrach.

“We know the community looks forward to this event every year,” said Augusta West, Main Street’s executive director. “This was a difficult decision to make, but we feel postponing it is the right course of action.”

The annual event includes live music, food trucks, a veterans’ tribute, the singing of the National Anthem, children’s activities, and a fireworks display reflected in the waters of the Apalachicola River. It has been recognized as an Outstanding Special Event by the Florida Secretary of State and named one of the Top 12 Fireworks Events in Florida.

Last year’s speaker was Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, who announced that a transport ship, the USNS Apalachicola, had been named in honor of the city.