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WAKE FOREST — The town of Wake Forest announced it will work to prevent audiences from watching its annual firework show in-person and instead is encouraging residents to tune in virtually over Facebook.
The Fireworks Spectacular is scheduled for 9:15 p.m. on Friday. The show will be livestreamed on Facebook and will begin with a message from the Board of Commissioners, along with Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty, the town said. It will also include the Star Spangled Sing-Along virtual choir, which features videos from locals, and footage from previous celebrations, according to Bill Crabtree, the town’s public information officer.
“It was especially important for us to provide the fireworks show this year in some form or fashion,” said Mayor Vivian Jones. “Considering all the programs and events that have been canceled due to COVID-19, we wanted to offer a way for our community to continue this special holiday tradition.”
Fireworks are set to be launched from near Heritage High School’s stadium at 9:30 p.m.
Cars will not be allowed to park at Heritage High School to watch the show. The town said it won’t allow people to park near the school or watch the show in-person near the campus or along the Sanford Creek Greenway, which will be partially closed for much of Friday.
Foundation Drive will also be closed, the town said.
“Although we would prefer to gather in-person with family and friends as we normally do to enjoy the fireworks show, the virtual option will allow us to enjoy the display while helping ensure the health and safety of our community,” said Jones.
The town discussed offering a drive-in fireworks show but decided the challenges outweighed the potential benefits, Crabtree said.
“It would require considerable effort by police and town staff to coordinate parking and ensure everyone remains in their vehicles, while also attempting to ensure appropriate social distancing,” he said. “When the parking lot became full, we’d have no choice but to turn away cars of families that had planned on watching the event from the high school — thus creating more frustration.”
It would also be difficult for the town to provide restroom facilities, keep them sanitized and ensure physical distancing guidelines were followed, Crabtree added.
“We believe the virtual option is our best option and will allow families to enjoy the show and stay safe,” he said.
Some businesses in the vicinity of Heritage High School hired off-duty police officers to monitor their parking lots to limit parking to business patrons only, Crabtree said.
This year’s event will cost between $20,000-$25,000, which is considerably less than in previous years, Crabtree said. In 2018, the cost was $49,633, and in 2019, it was $51,626. Both years, the town had sponsors help cover a significant portion of the cost.
Wake Forest had already signed a contract with the fireworks company before the COVID-19 pandemic, he added.
The fireworks company will be using larger shells that shoot higher and increase the likelihood that more people will be able to see them.
The town has held its fireworks spectacular on July 3 for more than 50 years to avoid conflicts with larger communities’ shows as well as allowing the town to host a children’s parade as well as an arts and games event on July 4. This year, the other festivities are canceled.
The firework program will be rebroadcast on WFTV 10 throughout July. It will also be available to view on the town’s website.
UPDATE (6-30-2020): This story was updated with additional comments from town spokesman Bill Crabtree.