Westport cancels Fourth of July fireworks

Skyrockets light up the sky over Long Island Sound at the 2017 Independence Day Fireworks Fundraising Show at Compo Beach, Monday, July 3, in Westport, Conn.

Skyrockets light up the sky over Long Island Sound at the 2017 Independence Day Fireworks Fundraising Show at Compo Beach, Monday, July 3, in Westport, Conn.

Jarret Liotta / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — The skies above Compo Beach will again be empty this Fourth of July.

The town announced this year’s annual Compo Beach Independence Day fireworks will be canceled out of concerns for COVID-19 and uncertainty with the ongoing pandemic.

“I am disappointed that this year Westport could not hold the large celebration we had hoped for,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “But our town has come too far in our successful battle to overcome COVID to risk a possible setback by conducting a major gathering prematurely.”

The decision was made by town officials in collaboration with the Westport Police Athletic League’s board of trustees and in consultation with the health district.

Officials said they considered current information and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state about large-scale events, as well as continued uncertainty about pandemic and the COVID-19 variants.

Social distancing at large events is still recommended for the foreseeable future, even as mask rules are starting to relax and more people are vaccinated, they said.

“The CDC recommends that everyone, fully vaccinated or not, should social distance and continue wearing masks in crowded settings and outdoor venues like concerts and sporting events where you will be around large groups of strangers,” said Westport Weston Health District Director Mark Cooper. “In most outdoor scenarios, the transmission risk is low. However, when outside in places where you are likely to be with many people from outside your household, people must maintain social distancing and should still wear face coverings.”

Marpe said there is no way to enforce social distancing and mask wearing at the fireworks, which generally draws thousands of people.

He said they considered other sites but the alternatives to Compo Beach created even greater accessibility, safety and logistical concerns, he said.

“Unfortunately, there is no luxury of taking a ‘wait and see’ approach to determine where the community is in its COVID recovery efforts come July,” Marpe said.

Planning for the event has to start early because of permitting, funding and arranging the display itself.

Other communities have also canceled their fireworks shows because of COVID-19, including Danbury and Ridgefield. Darien will be hosting a festive beach day in place of the fireworks.

“I am happy that this year’s July Fourth holiday still offers an opportunity to celebrate safely with smaller groups of families, friends and neighbors,” Marpe said.

He said there has been “tremendous support” this past year as the community as a whole managed the “devastating health crisis.”

“We have not yet completed the race, but we are closer to the finish line, and nearing a return to normalcy.” Marpe said. “I am confident that next year’s celebration at Compo Beach will be the most memorable one in many years.”