Two July 4th fireworks shows to dazzle downtown Raleigh

pseligson@newsobserver.comJuly 3, 2013 

— Last year, the City of Raleigh’s 4th of July fireworks were both a boom and a bust.

But this year, officials have added a second fireworks show to make sure the event flares rather than fizzles.

For years, the 4th of July fireworks blazed above the State Fairgrounds. But people didn’t have to come all the way to the fairgrounds to see the main event. They could watch from the surrounding streets and the parking lots of nearby businesses. They would bring lawn chairs and even cooked out.

City officials changed the venue to downtown Raleigh last year to promote business and create an all-day event. But for many attendees, the fireworks were blocked by the tall buildings of downtown. Only people directly on Fayetteville Street had a clear view.

So this year, officials decided to present two shows, both about 20 minutes long.

9:15 p.m. — Fayetteville Street

This segment of fireworks will be launched from the parking lot in front of the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts. As with last year’s show, people on Fayetteville Street will have the only unobstructed view of the fireworks.

These fireworks will reach a maximum height of about 300 feet. As long as the rain holds off, the show should be more visible than last year’s, said Dough Grissom, assistant director of the Convention Center Complex.

“We think the weather influenced it so that you didn’t see the full 300 feet,” Grissom said of the 2012 show. “Most of it was going up there and dissipating more than expected.”

10:10 p.m. — Red Hat Amphitheater

The second show will be launched from the corner of South and Dawson Streets, and will be best seen by people attending the free concert in the Red Hat Amphitheater. This show will tower as high as 600 feet, equal in height to the old shows at the State Fairgrounds, Grissom said.

Originally slated for 10:15 p.m., this display will occur at 10:10 p.m.

Amphitheater spokesman Taylor Traversari said people standing west of Fayetteville Street should be able to see the show, as long as they walk beyond some of downtown’s taller buildings.

What if it rains?

If it’s only raining lightly, the show will still go on, said Cheri Baldree, owner of S & W Productions, the fireworks company putting on the shows.

“We’re going to prepare it as if it is going to rain,” Baldree said. “We’re going to go ahead and set up and cover everything with plastic to keep it from being wet.”

Daytime storms won’t be a problem, Traversari said, but heavy rain, lightning or high winds during the event could stop the fireworks.

If the shows end up being cancelled, Grissom said the fireworks will be rescheduled for Labor Day weekend, but without the accompanying street festival.

Good enough?

After the lackluster fireworks display of last year, some locals took to Twitter to voice – or joke about – their complaints.

Justin Miller tweeted: “Raleigh: if you’re gonna have fireworks in downtown, at least make them higher than the far from tall buildings.”

This year, Miller said he’s attending the downtown celebration, but he doesn’t understand the point of having two shows.

“Just make it one and make it one good one,” said Miller, who heads a downtown tech company.

He suggested that officials could make the celebration a block party near the Red Hat Amphitheater, rather than keep the event on Fayetteville Street.

Last year Brent Woodcox also chimed in on Twitter: “Things with a higher approval rating than last night’s fireworks in Raleigh: Adam Sandler’s last five movies, Congress, terrorism.”

Woodcox, a state employee, said Tuesday that the downtown celebration means people have to get close and pack together in order to see the fireworks show. Though he has never seen fireworks at the State Fairgrounds, Woodcox said, the open space can make a difference.

“People have regaled stories to me about how they could see the fireworks from some place on (Interstate) 40, or they could go and drive and just park in a parking deck and see them from there,” Woodcox said.

He said the City of Raleigh was probably trying to bring people together by moving the venue downtown, but that others enjoyed the fireworks more when the show was in an open space.

“Hopefully they’ve struck a balance that’s going to satisfy both camps,” Woodcox said.

Seligson: 919-829-8983

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service