By Mary Thurwachter
Lantana reversed course during the June 22 Town Council meeting, postponing its Fourth of July fireworks show. Until then, the town had planned to have the pyrotechnics display from a barge in the Intracoastal Waterway next to Bicentennial Park but without the traditional celebration in the park.
With the coronavirus pandemic lurking, one by one towns and cities up and down the coastline have been putting the kibosh on fireworks.
Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Deerfield Beach, Boynton Beach, Lake Worth and North Palm Beach canceled or postponed fireworks and other Independence Day gatherings for fear of community spread of COVID-19. Like cities nationwide, they have been advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention not to hold events with large crowds.
Since March, council members in Lantana said they wanted the $30,000 Zambelli fireworks show to go on, even if the party in the park wouldn’t be part of it. Residents were being encouraged to watch from their homes. All town parks in the vicinity — including Sportsman’s Park across the street from Bicentennial; Lyman Kayak Park just around the corner; and the beach, a short hike over the bridge — would be closed, blocked off with police officers standing guard. Town officials were asking people not to cram together to watch the show from the bridge — or anywhere.
But Police Chief Sean Scheller said keeping people off the bridge — historically a favorite spot for watching the fireworks — would be a problem. He said he was concerned about crowd control.
He wasn’t the only one worried about unruly crowds. Dave Arm, president of the Lantana Chamber of Commerce, begged the Town Council to cancel the fireworks. He said he feared mayhem on East Ocean Avenue, the town’s downtown restaurant and shopping district.
“Considering what’s going on in the country, where people are using different circumstances as an excuse to make trouble, I don’t want to see windows broken from my member businesses on Ocean Avenue,” Arm said. “I don’t want to see people hurt. And I don’t want to see Lantana in the national news because we were stupid enough to have fireworks.”
Arm said it would be "insane and irresponsible" to have fireworks this year.
Council member Malcolm Balfour, who made the motion to postpone fireworks until New Year’s Eve or next April for the town’s centennial celebration, said he thought fireworks should not be held, especially with the number of COVID-19 cases steadily increasing.
Vice Mayor Lynn Moorhouse said he couldn’t second the motion for postponement — the thought of it made him sad, he said — but inevitably he voted in favor of delaying fireworks, as did all council members.