- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
America’s pre-eminent place to celebrate Independence Day is, of course, the National Mall, where marble monuments provide a backdrop for singularly beautiful detonations. But attending that classic observance requires enduring jam-packed Metro rides, clots of confused tourists and a string of security checkpoints.
Fortunately for Southern Marylanders, there’s no need to rely on the feds for this most American of holidays. Local governments and community groups put on spectacular pyrotechnics as well, in venues that offer more space, less stress and, above all, a sense of community.
The Tiki Bar on Solomons Island is a local icon, and watching the fireworks there is an annual tradition for general manager Joe Kurley and some of his friends, he said.
“The 4th of July is always — I’ve been here for 13 years — it’s always been memorable. Midway through the summer, we have a regular crowd that comes down. We all sit around, and I think that’s one of my best memories of Solomons Island summers, is watching the fireworks go up. It just always seems to be a hot, musty night, and it’s a good time and it’s fun for Solomons,” Kurley said.
For an even better view, Calvert Marine Museum offers cruises, weather permitting, to watch the fireworks from its boat, the Wm. B. Tennison, said museum group services coordinator Melissa McCormick, who founded the tradition in 2004.
“The fireworks in Solomons are awesome, and a lot of people like being out on the water in the evening. The local people take their boats out. It’s a lot of fun. They anchor and watch the fireworks right there. It’s the best show in town. I thought: We have a boat that can take 40 people out. Why not sell spaces and get people out on the water to enjoy it like other people can?” she said.
Solomons puts on an exceptional display, and seeing it from the water enhances the experience even more, said McCormick, who praised the Solomons Business Association for raising the necessary funds each year.
“The fireworks on the water are really neat. You see the lower ones a lot of times [that people on the land might miss] when the fireworks go off, and you see the really high ones. If you’re right there, you see them all and then you get the beautiful reflections on the water. You see fireworks in the sky, and if it’s a calm night, you see them bouncing off, reflecting in the water. It makes for some really good pictures,” she said. “… For a small town, I think they’re spectacular, especially with the location of being over the water. They fire them off a barge, and how many people get to see that?”
As part of the registration fee, patrons get a floating picnic with appetizers so they don’t have to bring their own food. The boat doesn’t serve alcohol, but passengers “can bring their own libations,” McCormick said.
Alcohol isn’t allowed at the observance on the Indian Head Village Green, but that celebration offers other compensation, like carnival rides, live music and all the other accoutrements of a festival. But it’s not just about the fun, said town community affairs director Karen Williams. Before festivities begin, there’s a 3:30 p.m. “patriotic kickoff” at the fountain on the village green, typically including a flag ceremony involving veterans and Boy Scouts.
“That was something I started 19 years ago. We had the idea to honor [soldiers], and through the years we had Desert Storm and, I believe early on in the [second] war of Iraq, we honored veterans and had some of the families come up. Military [members] came back from combat and came to the ceremony. … That’s why we did that: to acknowledge the patriotic portion as well as the fireworks,” Williams said.
Elsewhere in Charles County, county government and the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs have teamed up to put on some fireworks and a party in the Waldorf stadium parking lot, said county promotions specialist Rachel Reynolds. The hope is that people will also go see the home game that day, but even if they don’t, they can enjoy live music, kids activities and vendor displays outside, Reynolds said.
“We’re hoping to get everyone to buy tickets to go into the stadium and get the added value [of going] to both events,” she said.
Besides the nighttime fireworks, which will begin at 9:30 p.m., there will be a 6:30 p.m. pyrotechnics display featuring loud sounds and colored smoke, a repertoire designed to appear impressive in the light of a long summer evening. Both displays will be visible from inside or outside Regency Furniture Stadium, Reynolds said.
Anyone with other plans July 4, or who simply really loves fireworks, can see pyrotechnics other days this week. In fact, St. Mary’s County has no fireworks displays on Independence Day, but three venues — Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department, St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Dennis Point Marina — will hold celebrations other days.
In Chesapeake Beach, the longstanding tradition is to hold the celebration July 3 to avoid competing with Solomons, said Connie O’Dell, town special events coordinator.
“We respect each other. It’s a small community. A lot of people who live within the community like to travel to different ones. We all are [seeking] tourist opportunities. That gives us an opportunity at the same tourist things, too,” O’Dell said.
As in Solomons, many spectators take to the water for the best view, she said. Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant holds special promotions, and patrons gather at other local restaurants, too, she said.
The town provides the fireworks but no other activities, she said.
“We get so many folks into Chesapeake Beach that it’s really nigh on impossible to get around, so we really don’t have any way of having anything else. It’s wonderfully successful,” O’Dell said.
If you go
Chesapeake Beach — See pyrotechnics over the Chesapeake Bay at the waterfront town’s annual fireworks display July 3 at dusk. Arrive early for parking. Free, but fee required for beach access. Go to www.chesapeake-beach.md.us.
Fireworks cruise — Watch Solomons fireworks from the water aboard the Wm. B. Tennison, an old oyster buyboat. Launches 8 p.m. July 4 from Calvert Marine Museum, 14200 Solomons Island Road, Solomons. Tickets cost $37. No children under 7. Advance registration required by June 28. Call 410-326-2042, ext. 41, or email email@example.com.
Street fair — This historic community hosts an afternoon street fair on the Solomons Island Boardwalk from 3 p.m. until fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. Rain date July 5. Go to www.solomonsmaryland.com/solomons-4th-of-july.html.
Fireworks at the stadium — Merge Independence Day with the all-American pastime of baseball at “Celebrate Charles: A Fun Filled Fourth” 4:30-9:30 p.m. July 4 at Regency Furniture Stadium, 11765 St. Linus Drive, Waldorf. Free admission for vendors, music and fireworks, but access to Family Fun Zone, with kids amusements, costs $5. Free shuttle from Mary Burgess Neal Elementary School, 12105 St. George’s Drive. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Patriotic kickoff — Indian Head fireworks preserve the patriotic spirit of the holiday with a patriotic kickoff 3:30 p.m. July 4 on the Village Green. Free, with food and carnival games available for a fee. Fireworks begin at dusk. No pets. Go to www.townofindianhead.org.
Watermelon Bash — No fireworks here, but cool off 11 a.m.-2 p.m. July 4 at the town’s free Watermelon Bash in front of town hall, 305 Queen Anne St. Includes watermelon-eating contest, watermelon toss, water slide and food. Go to www.townoflaplata.org.
Patriotic ceremony — Remember how it all began at the house of Declaration of Independence signatory Thomas Stone 9 a.m.-5 p.m. July 4 at the Thomas Stone National Historic Site, 6655 Rose Hill Road, Port Tobacco. Events include a wreath-laying ceremony, Colonial toys and games, and tours of the house. Free. Call 301-392-1776 or go to www.nps.gov/thst.
St. Mary’s County
Firehouse celebration — Hollywood Volunteer Fire Department continues an annual tradition with an early Independence Day celebration beginning 5 p.m. June 29 at the firehouse, 24801 Three Notch Road. Events include live entertainment, carnival rides and games, and food vendors before fireworks start at dusk. Rides require $5 armband, parking costs $5 per car. No coolers or pets. Call 301-373-2900 or go to www.hvfd7.com.
River Concert Series — Hear an outdoor concert, “A Star Spangled Night,” featuring performances of pieces ranging from “Yankee Doodle” to “The 1812 Overture,” 7 p.m. July 5 at a special concert on the Townhouse Green at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, 18952 E. Fisher Road, St. Mary’s City. Fireworks begin when the music ends. Grounds open at 5 p.m. Free. Go to www.smcm.edu/riverconcert.
Fireworks Extravaganza — Dennis Point Marina and Campground will shoot off fireworks at 9:15 p.m. July 6 at 46555 Dennis Point Way, Drayden. Go to http://dennispointmarina.net.