More Pinellas fireworks shows go up in smoke

Madeira Beach's Fourth of July fireworks display was an event that attracted thousands of spectators. The coronavirus pandemic, however, has forced the city to cancel its display.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced Tampa Bay area cities and towns to cancel dozens of events the past few months. 

To the dismay of elected officials and residents, Independence Day fireworks shows have been the latest. Most notably, Clearwater and St. Petersburg decided that mass gathering limitations made it too difficult and dangerous to hold their displays.

Here's a look at who has canceled and some alternative some cities have considered.

Madeira Beach

Based on current restrictions limiting the size of groups, the city’s popular fireworks display will probably not happen this year, City Manager Bob Daniels said. 

“I don’t find it prudent to sign a contract for fireworks,” he said May 27 during a City Commission meeting.

Mayor John Hendricks agreed. “I just can’t see doing the fireworks. It’s a hard decision to cut something like that out, but there are times you have to make those hard decisions.” 

He cited the revenue the city has lost this year, and said, “We don’t need to spend this money.”

A boat parade was discussed as an alternative, similar to the Veterans Day parade “that always turns out pretty nice,” said Commissioner Nancy Hodges.

But Commissioner Helen Price said this is an election year, and the boats might carry unwanted political messages not in keeping with the Independence Day celebration. She cited a recent boat parade that was a rally for President Donald Trump.

“This could be a little more raucous than the normal boat parade,” said Commissioner Doug Andrews.

Daniels said rules could be in place to make sure the boat parade conforms to the Fourth of July celebration theme.

The issue will be discussed again at the regular commission meeting June 10.

St. Pete Beach

St. Pete Beach commissioners decided May 26 that instead of one big fireworks show, it would hold two small shows in an effort to limit crowd sizes. One show will be held July 3 on one side of the city and one on July 4 on the other.

City Manager Alex Rey said he spoke with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri about the plans, and he signed off on the idea. 

“He was comfortable with what we are doing,” Rey said of the plan, which will cost about $30,000, slightly more than the single show. 

Commissioners lauded staff for their creativity. Since neighboring cities have canceled their shows, Commissioner Ward Friszolowski’s only question was how does the city spread the word to residents without alerting outsiders.

“We would really probably not even disclose the exact location as to where we are going to launch fireworks,” Rey said. “We will simply tell people that if you live on the north side of the city between 7:30 and 7:45, go outside your house, look in that direction and you’re going to be able to see something.”

City officials had second thoughts, however, and later decided to cancel the display after all. 

Treasure Island

Citing the large crowds it would draw, Treasure Island commissioners voted unanimously June 2 to cancel its show as well.

City staff recommended using the roughly $20,000 contract with its vendor for a more robust pair of displays at the city's signature event, Sanding Ovations, in November.

Commissioners, however, preferred to hold a show either on Labor Day, New Year's Eve or both. They are expected to make the decision at their June 16 meeting.

Redington Shores

The town of Redington Shores was hoping to make up for a failed show last year with an even better one this year.

Unfortunately, it won’t happen. 

“It was not an easy decision. … We are going to cancel this year,” Mayor MaryBeth Henderson wrote in an email to TBN.

Last year’s show fizzled out after the town’s vendor sent its display to Anna Maria Island. This year, the show was to be done by a local resident’s company, Ken Speed Special Effects. 

Gulfport

Gulfport announced on its Facebook page May 31 that it was canceling its fireworks show and hoped to reschedule them for Labor Day weekend Saturday, Sept. 5.

Fourth of July activities, including the community parade, kids fishing derby, and sand sculpture contest, have also been canceled.

“It’s one thing if policy decisions were being driven by economics to reopen; we understand that and support our businesses,” Gulfport Mayor Samuel Henderson said. “But as a city inviting people to gather in close quarters where it’s going to be very difficult to maintain social distancing, we were very uncomfortable inviting people to congregate that way.”

Other areas

Largo — Commissioners decided June 2 to cancel its show at Central Park.

Clearwater — Canceled

St. Petersburg — Canceled

Tarpon Springs — Canceled