Sparkle, Don’t Explode

Here’s how to find, enjoy fireworks in 2020 

You could thank the second U.S. President, John Adams for the American love of fireworks on July 4th. After all, he was the one who hoped that “the great anniversary Festival… ought to be commemorated…with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” 

The annual summer tradition of lighting up the skies in honor of Independence Day has become complicated this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. From the mega-fireworks shows over the Bay in Annapolis and Baltimore to the smaller but still-popular shows in Chesapeake Beach and Solomons, July 4th celebrations were scrapped in an effort to reduce crowd contact and the spread of the virus. Only a handful of locations will launch pyrotechnics this weekend—most in private communities or with a limited number of guests. 

In Anne Arundel County, only the Gibson Island Club and a private landowner in Edgewater have been granted fireworks permits for the weekend. In Calvert County, fireworks will be launched at Prince Frederick’s Running Hare Vineyard July 3. 

The lack of public displays means more people will be staying home and lighting their own sparklers and fireworks, says Maryland State Fire Marshal Brian Geraci.  

More consumer fireworks could mean more injuries this year. Geraci led a fireworks safety demonstration last week at the Howard County Public Safety Training Center. His office stressed safety must still be a high priority with at-home fireworks use. Fireworks were involved with an estimated 10,000 injuries treated in U.S. hospital emergency departments last year. And determining what is and isn’t legal in different localities may not be simple. 

In Maryland, any firework that explodes or launches a projectile in the air or moves on the ground is illegal, including firecrackers, cherry bombs, Black Cats and M-80s. Individual counties have their own restrictions. In Calvert County, the only legal fireworks are sparklers and ground-based sparkling devices that are non-aerial nonexplosive. In Prince George’s County, Baltimore City and Ocean City, all fireworks including sparklers are prohibited. 

Sparklers may seem tame, but they can turn dangerous—especially in the hands of children. A spark from a sparkler can easily set clothing on fire and the metal can reach up to 1200 degrees. The types of fireworks that cause the most injuries are firecrackers, sparklers and bottle rockets. 

When purchasing fireworks, watch for terms like “shoot” or “explode” as those signal an illegal product. Follow label warnings and instructions. Do not allow children to use fireworks. Stay sober while using fireworks and have a bucket of water available nearby to fully extinguish the remains. Leftover unused fireworks should be soaked in water before disposal. Do not attempt to re-light a firework. 

Find local Fourth of July parades in Bay Planner,

If you are enjoying the July 4th holiday (boating’s busiest time of year) on the water, do not light fireworks on your boat. “With gallons of fuel and other flammable materials aboard your boat, you would be truly risking lives,” said BoatUS Foundation Assistant Director of Boating Safety Ted Sensenbrenner. “It’s not worth the risk. There is no safe place aboard a boat suitable for using fireworks.” 

Instead of lighting fireworks or sparklers at home, Geraci encourages attendance at a public fireworks display. Of course, they are few and far between. The 2020 Salute to America on the South Lawn of the White House and Ellipse will still be held on July 4, according to a White House statement. “In addition to music, military demonstrations, and flyovers to honor our Nation’s service members and veterans, the President will deliver remarks that celebrate our independence and salute our amazing heritage. The evening will culminate with a spectacular fireworks display over the National Mall.”  

For Bay Bulletin’s list of fireworks displays in the Chesapeake Bay region, see 

“Fireworks have been a long tradition of the 4th of July holiday celebrations. Please make safety your number one priority so everyone can enjoy the holiday season.” stated Geraci. “By acting responsibly, we can help eliminate fireworks injuries in Maryland.”