The Fourth of July fireworks show over the ocean in Harbor was fantastic — for those who stuck around long enough for it to begin.
“It was like Murphy’s law,” said event coordinator Barb Ciaramella of the late start to the extravaganza. “They were coming down the coast, dropping off fireworks in different places — and they got caught in the Port Orford parade. And being explosives, they’re not allowed to go through neighborhoods; it was beyond their control.”
Port Orford might be a small burg, but its enthusiastic residents go all out on the Fourth of July; the parade alone was about an hour long.
In Harbor, sheriff’s deputies had the area cordoned off at the south jetty at Sporthaven Beach. Partiers were flying kites and barbecuing hot dogs. Piles of wood were stacked in preparation for campfires and s’mores. Music blared.
But Western Display Fireworks of Canby, usually stationed at the south jetty at Sporthaven Beach a full day ahead of time, was nowhere to be seen. They didn’t arrive until 4 p.m. and the show didn’t begin until 11 p.m. — 45 minutes after the contract said it was to start — by which time most people had left.
Western Display President Heather Gobet said the company is taking out a half-page ad into today’s (July 7) Pilot apologizing to the community.
“We take our relationships with participating cities very seriously,” she said, adding that they plan to ensure the show is “extra special” next year. The company has conducted shows up and down the Oregon Coast for 70 years.
Ciaramella hopes the community will understand, saying “it is what it is,” — and noting the company plans to fund part of the event next year to make it into a full-day extravaganza.
“I told them, because of this, we could lose our whole fireworks program,” she said. “I don’t want this to be ugly, I don’t want it to be where the town says we don’t want it anymore.”
Ultimately, the only criticism Ciaramella has was the lack of communication.
“I was there all day, and if they would’ve told us there was a possible delay, I could’ve let the radio station know, could’ve gotten the word out on the beach, let people know it was still coming. That’s where they dropped the ball,” she said. “I was feeding their crew, I talked to the pyrotech person, and she talked to me like everything was fine. At 9:45 (p.m.) I asked them how much longer, and she said, ‘Oh, well, we’ll do it at 10:15 like the permit says.’ And 10:15 comes and goes. …”
The fireworks crew has said in the past that it gives itself that whole day on site to ensure there won’t be problems, as it takes a long time to set up the boxes on the rocky jetty and wire them to computers. A staging depot in Coos Bay ran into logistical problems with trucking issues, delaying the process from the start.
“Then it got late, and some fireworks weren’t hooked up correctly or whatever,” Ciaramella said. “They thought they had it down pat, and they didn’t.”
The fireworks eventually shot into the clear night sky, and people on the ground awaited the grand finale.
Ciaramella sighed and chuckled.
“The grand finale fizzled out,” she said. “They had a dozen fireworks that didn’t go off, and they lit one at a time at very end. It was almost a tease, trying to pull you back in. One random one would be going up, then a couple minutes, and then another one; I thought, ‘Are they trying to stretch out the time?’ I felt sorry for them.”
Meanwhile, illegal fireworks were exploding all over the beach and along the banks of the Chetco River, filling in the time until the sanctioned ones were to go off.
“Someone else on the beach was lighting them,” Ciaramella said. “Someone said, ‘Next year, hire that guy!’ It was kind of funny.”
She said the incident was unfortunate because Western Display Fireworks is a good company to work with.
“We did the best we could,” she said. “Hopefully they can make it so people will be so enthused for next year because the fireworks company gave back so we can have more going on during the day.”
FUN’d the Fourth
Unlike last year, when Ciaramella took it upon herself at the last minute to organize the Fourth of July show when the veterans’ group opted out, there was more time to raise funds, she said.
But that also proved to be a challenge, as last year, there seemed to be a sense of urgency, and money flowed across the transom.
Ciaramella did raise the entire $25,000 needed this year — in part, thanks to a $3,000 contribution from Best Western Beachfront Inn — but said it was tough.
“It’s hard to be out there raising money for fireworks when half the Western states are on fire,” she said. “That’s why the fireworks company needs to step up to plate; that’s an easy thing to eliminate (from a community’s plans).”
This year, Ciaramella sold commemorative lapel pins for $25 that entered participants into a drawing for a cruise for two to Mexico. She didn’t sell them all — many people, too, donated to the cause, but declined to take a pin — and the cruise went to a couple from Hopland, California.
“I liked that it was won by people who came to enjoy them and paid,” she said of the prize not going to a local. “That was the spin I took on that.”
That positive spin is what she’s trying to maintain, Ciaramella said, as she winds down the logistics from the mid-week event.
“I’m glad it’s the fifth,” she said.