The Aberdeen Board of Commissioners is optimistic that fireworks will return to the town this Fourth of July.
Like nearly every other event in 2020, last year’s pyrotechnics show at Aberdeen Lake Park was canceled amid concerns about the coronavirus. On Monday, Adam Crocker, director of the town’s Parks and Recreation department, told the commissioners they need to make a decision soon if they wish to proceed with this year’s celebration.
“We’re at the point now where we really need to start thinking about if we’re going to contract again this year for fireworks or not,” said Crocker, who noted that the pandemic forced several other fireworks vendors out of business in 2020. “They’re starting to get requests now and they need to start scheduling staff and setting aside inventory.”
Commissioner Joe Dannelley said the town should “drive on” with the event.
“I’m confident that in six months this county will have made a lot of progress in not only vaccinations but continuing to manage policy from the state and implementing it here in the county,” Dannelley said.
He added that there were “a lot of unknowns” surrounding the virus when the town decided to call off last year’s event.
“I think we know as much as we can know at this point to begin negotiations with the vendor,” he said. “I’m personally excited that we even have a vendor. I think if we don’t make the decision to pursue it now and we’re in a position to have really been able to provide the community not only fireworks, but an opportunity to get together as safely as possible under the current guidelines, we’d be remiss.”
His position on the issue was shared by Commissioner Teressa Beavers, who said “a lot of things can happen between now and the summer.”
“There are a lot of events going on. I mean, just look at the Super Bowl,” Beavers said. “It’s just that we have to be cautious about how we do it. People are more educated about COVID now, and people have got more knowledge about how it works.”
Commissioner Wilma Laney, however, said she felt the situation is “still kind of iffy.”
“We’ve made some progress, but I don’t feel that we’ve made enough,” she said. “I think if we gave it another month, we could make a good decision.”
Mayor Robbie Farrell voiced similar concerns earlier in the meeting.
“We’re looking at six months out and nobody has a crystal ball,” he said. “You would think if enough people get vaccinated that would put a curve on this, but we don’t know if (the virus) is still going to be out there six months from now. Are we still going to be in jeopardy? It’s a question we’ve got to decide because we need to let the vendor know.”
While Crocker said the commissioners did not have to immediately approve a contract with the vendor, he stressed that they would “need to make a call in the next little bit.”
“My only fear is that if we at some point get passed in line, it may not be a decision that we are able to make,” he said. “It was hard to find this contractor when we lost our last one, and this contractor has passed along that there probably will be some more people getting in line because so many other contractors have gone defunct.”
The commissioners ultimately decided to notify the vendor of the board’s interest in proceeding with the event, a move that town manager Paul Sabiston believed would be enough to secure the town’s place in line for the time being. He said that even if a contract is approved by the commissioners, it will need to include various conditions protecting the town’s investment.
“We’re not going to roll a $1,200 or $1,500 dice and then there’s a statewide shutdown and we can’t get our money back,” Sabiston said.