There will be no official Fourth of July fireworks display in Philadelphia this year.
Instead, the rockets’ red glare will be a recording of last year’s pre-pandemic firework display over the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And, like most of the city’s July 4 celebrations this year, it can be viewed on television, as health officials continue to attempt to tame the spread of the coronavirus.
Though city officials announced in May that Philadelphia’s 2020 weeklong Wawa Welcome America bash will be held virtually, it remained unclear whether the 28-year-old festival would still host its massive Independence Day fireworks show, which typically brings thousands of spectators to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
However, on Tuesday, Welcome America and the city said the 2020 show is off, a decision made “with the health of the community top of mind.”
“We believe traditional fireworks displays encourage people to gather in close proximity which is not recommended at this time due to potential spread of COVID-19,” said city spokesperson Deana Gamble.
Philadelphia is set to begin moving Friday to the “green” phase of state’s color-coded economic reopening amid the pandemic, although the city will reopen at a slower pace than its surrounding counties. Under the “new normal,” events involving more than 250 people remain prohibited.
The recorded fireworks show will be broadcast on NBC10, Telemundo62, CoziTV, and TeleXitos and streamed online following an 8 p.m. virtual live concert at the Met featuring Jason Derulo and Cynthia Erivo.
Last week, Welcome America announced that its typical block party celebrations and hoagie-eating revelry will be replaced by a a series of virtual events, including online wellness programming, a children’s education series and story time, virtual museum tours, esports tournaments, televised concerts, and a door decorating contest.
As the city continues to receive an influx of complaints about loud nightly booms as residents light their own fireworks leading up to July 4, Managing Director Brian Abernathy Tuesday issued a word of caution against a homemade show.
“While we’re not certain why this is happening, we are certain that fireworks are incredibly dangerous,” Abernathy said in a statement. “We understand the absence of in-person festivals may cause some to crave the excitement of an enormous fireworks display over the river. But the simple fact is that these are extremely dangerous products and the risks far outweigh the momentary excitement of the explosions.”