Fourth of July celebrations in communities across greater Meriden will come with considerably less fanfare than in years past.
That's because public health advisories related to the COVID-19 pandemic have prompted municipalities and other groups that host large fireworks displays to forego holding such events. Large crowds typically flock to view the colorful pyrotechnic displays, thereby posing significant public health risks.
Cheshire, the Kurtz family's self-funded fireworks display has essentially served as that town's annual Fourth of July celebration throughout a run that's been ongoing for decades.
The family announced recently that they will not be putting on the show, due to uncertainty around large public gatherings and other public health concerns posed by COVID-19.
Earl Kurtz III, reached Thursday afternoon, said, “Nobody was happy about it [the decision to cancel]. But we understand the way things are right now. We didn't want to put anyone's health at risk.”
Arnett Talbot, assistant town manager in Cheshire, said the annual event is “a generous private event” on the part of the Kurtz dfamily.
“They had done it for years. It's pretty incredible,” Talbot said.
Don Walsh, a Cheshire Town Councilor, said the display had been a continuous annual event in town for as long he can remember.
“It's been since my kids were young,” Walsh said. “And my daughter is 22.”
Walsh said some of the best areas to view the display are on Peck Lane, and in the area of Richard Chevrolet on Route 10. There are other areas as well.
Walsh expressed some disappointment about the decision to cancel. At the same time, he said he understood the Kurtz family's decision behind the cancellation.
Walsh said the Kurtz fireworks show is as good, if not better than fireworks displays hosted by other towns. And it's a privately funded event.
“They're a very generous family. And they've done a lot for this community,” Walsh said.
Cheshire Town Council Rob Oris Jr. remarked similarly about the Kurtz family's generosity. He further expressed hope that while that celebration will not be held, other events, including the town's annual Fall Festival, in September will go on, although likely different from prior events.
“We're trying to come up with a modified version of a fall event,” Oris said, noting it is being planned by town officials and the Cheshire Chamber of Commerce.
“We understand the limitations we have,” Oris said. “We will try to come up with something that we thing is safe, and something that safely builds comraderie for the community.”
Wallingford too will not hold its annual celebration, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., due to virus concerns.
“At this point, with COVID and all of the executive orders regarding public gatherings, there’s no plans for fireworks,” Dickinson said.
Officials say there have been increased reports of residents shooting off illegal fireworks in various places, including Meriden and Wallingford.
Meriden Mayor Kevin Scarpati said he and other elected officials have personally received numerous phone calls from constituents complaining of illegal fireworks being launched in their neighborhoods.
“I’m not sure the reason why. Maybe it’s because people are home ...” Scarpati said. “But I do know I have been receiving more complaints for illegal fireworks than I have in years past.”
The city’s police department is stepping up enforcement, Scarpati said.