Your patriotic fervor won’t have to go home by nighttime in the City of Falls Church, but there won’t be much of a reason to stay here.
That’s because, for the second year in a row, Falls Church won’t be hosting a fireworks spectacle for residents on the field of the now-Meridian High School’s turf. Finishing up the construction on Meridian’s campus makes it too unsafe for the pyrotechnics to find a spot where they can launch the fireworks for droves of locals to see.
“They’re connecting the middle school to the high school for a little bit, and the fields are still completely under construction,” said Danny Schlitt, the director of the City of Falls Church’s Recreation and Parks department. “We just didn’t have the ability to line everything up and have everything ready to go.”
The City isn’t totally bailing on Fourth of July fun. The reading of the Declaration of Independence will return at 2 p.m. on Sunday, though this time outdoors at Falls Church Episcopal (bring a chair). There is another holiday-themed scavenger hunt that younger Falls Church residents can participate in from 9 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. on Independence Day (Sunday). Scavengers will have to find 13 historical markers throughout the City and match each one of the 13 colonies they find on that historical marker on the form they print out.
Sudden M Pac will also be playing in Cherry Hill Park from 4:30 – 6 p.m. for those who want to take in a show before they find a spot to watch a show.
But don’t make plans for the fireworks to return next year just yet.
“I intend to meet with school representatives, the City Fire Marshal and a pyrotechnician to determine whether or not, with the placement of the new building, we can still hold a legitimate fireworks show for thousands of people,” Schlitt said. “That is where we are moving forward and hoping that we can once again have a firework shoot in the future on site up there.”
The way it’s always been done is that the fireworks would set up their mortars in the deep centerfield of the adjacent baseball field. The fire marshal would go by and make sure it had the proper spacing set up so it’d be safe for people on the synthetic turf field.
State regulations require that, for every inch in diameter of the shells being fired, it requires 100 feet of separation between the mortars themselves and the audiences. With the City using three-inch shells these past years, that means 300 feet of distance are needed.
Achieving that isn’t really a problem for Schlitt — he mentioned how advanced pyrotechnics have become that fireworks can be shot off in certain small, enclosed spaces. It mainly comes down to the fire marshal’s approval, and the school system’s comfort level with such a production.
“I’ve talked to some pyrotechnicians and they firmly believe we can pull off a show that is worthy of what the community and the citizenry expect,” Schlitt said. “It really then becomes a decision point between the fire marshal and the schools, since they own the facilities and just put millions of dollars into the new school, as to whether or not we can safely shoot.”
This move away from a fireworks show didn’t surprise Schlitt. He said he knew two years ago that there was no chance the 2020 fireworks show was going to happen, and felt that this year would have only been possible if the school’s construction was well ahead of schedule.
For those looking for other shows nearby, they should check out some celebrations nearby jurisdictions are holding.
Fairfax City will hold its 55th annual Independence Day parade on July 3.
The parade will begin at 10 a.m. at 4100 Chain Bridge Road, Fairfax, rain or shine and will loop around downtown Fairfax, along Chain Bridge Road, Main Street, University Drive and Armstrong Street. Nine high school marching bands as well as many large inflatable parade balloons, floats and clowns will be some of the entries.
On July 4, there will be an evening show with music and dancing at 6:30 p.m. at Fairfax High School (3501 Lion Run, Fairfax). On-stage entertainment begins at 6:30 p.m. with a fireworks display that follows. The rain date for the fireworks only is July 5. Items that may puncture the synthetic turf, smoking, alcohol and animals (except service animals) are not permitted on the football field.
The Town of Herndon will also be holding a fireworks show on the night of July 4, with the show expected to start at 9 p.m. The Town of Vienna, likewise, will hold fireworks display that night at Yeonas Park (1319 Ross Drive, Vienna SW), starting at 9:30 p.m.
Of course, there will also be fireworks on the National Mall inside Washington, D.C. A good vantage point for those is Gravelly Point Park in Arlington or along the waterfront in Old Town Alexandria.
Schlitt — ever the optimist — did say he wouldn’t rule out a show for next year. Right now, he puts the probability of it happening around 60 percent.
“If we figure there’s any kind of safety risk, then we’ll certainly have to see if we can come up with a Plan B,” Schlitt said.