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Residents Get Mixed Message Over Reason for Rescheduling July 4 Fireworks

Many thought the reason was the weather.

Despite just a drizzle the night of July 4, the Takoma Park fireworks display was canceled just 15 minutes before it was about to start. The reason given to residents by emcee Howard Kohn was rain, but it ended up that wasn't the main reason.

"The announcement to the crowd was that we were postponing the fireworks display because of the weather," said Ward 4 Councilman Terry Seamens in an email to Takoma Park Patch.

"Some of us feared that a more complete description of our problems would have just elevated concerns among those residents who came for the show. We felt that people would better understand a weather problem. There was an approaching storm, and we had felt a few drops of rain just prior to our announcement."

It was later acknowledged that the reason for the postponement was that the company who was putting on the show, Bay Fireworks, was late, Takoma Park Independence Day Committee President Gene Herman said. Note: The committee is not a government entity.

Herman said the announcement should have only been about the company being late and that weather was not the main factor. This was the first year the committee took bids for the fireworks contract, Herman said, and the company was chosen because the committee thought it would put on the best show.

"We're not likely to use the company next year," he said.

Bay Fireworks, based out of Farmingdale, N.Y., did not immediately respond to requests for comment as to why they were late in getting to Takoma Park.

Residents were not only confused but also disappointed that there was little communication afterward about when the fireworks would be rescheduled.

"It was nice to see them the next night, but if not for a Google search on 'fireworks Takoma Park' the next day from work, I would probably have missed those, too," .

"There was no concerted effort [to get the word out about the rescheduling]," Seamens said. "We posted it on the committee website. Some committee members also sent e-mails to individuals and listservs."

Seamens said he's meeting with the committee to discuss developing a contingency plan that better prepares them for future problems.

We have some more calls out, so check back for updates on this story.

LK July 12, 2011 at 02:32 AM
VOLUNTEERS spend countless hours making sure that we have a parade and fireworks. IF you aren't willing to give of your own time... for free..stop your complaining. Maybe next year, we won't have either of these events because those who go out of their way to provide a good time for others will get tired of all of the whining.
Steve Davies July 12, 2011 at 02:44 AM
Now showing at Electric Maid -- "A Few Good Men," starring Terry Seamens: "You can't handle the truth!" The good councilman says, "Some of us feared that a more complete description of our problems would have just elevated concerns [!] among those residents who came for the show. We felt that people would better understand a weather problem. There was an approaching storm, and we had felt a few drops of rain just prior to our announcement." So, because the real story would have "elevated concerns" in the crowd (pissed 'em off), they put their heads together and came up with a story that people would "better understand" (swallow w/o question). Great! An inside-the-Beltway solution for an inside-the-Beltway crowd all too familiar with doublespeak. Seamens, emcee Howard Kohn, and the entire Independence Day Committee, who -- fairness compels me to say -- do a heckuva job bringing us all the July 4 festivities, nonetheless owe the community a blanket apology for not simply telling the truth. What exactly were they afraid of? That they would be tarred and feathered by an angry mob? Or blasted into the stratosphere on Bay Fireworks' ordnance? I can't imagine the horrors. I do recall that as a schoolboy, I heard a story about George Washington and a cherry tree, the moral of which may be relevant here.
Steve Davies July 12, 2011 at 01:44 PM
It should be noted that while not a government entity, the Independence Day Committee received $12,000 from the city for this year's celebration, and $17,000 for last year's. (figures taken from resolutions adopted in 2010). I don't know what percentage that is of the committee's entire budget, nor do I know whether any of that money was unspent and returned to the city. When taxpayer funds (grants, police and rescue units) and public property (the Middle School field) are being used, transparency should be the name of the game.
Jay Levy July 12, 2011 at 02:34 PM
So who won the raffle prizes?
Steve Davies July 12, 2011 at 11:25 PM
Finally, someone focuses on the real news! I know it wasn't me, and I bought three raffle tickets for $5.
Terry J. Seamens July 13, 2011 at 02:10 AM
Steve, the committee issued an apology to the community. You can find it in the Fireworks section of the committee Website at www.takomapark4th.org. I think we've been very transparent, while simultaneously ensuring accuracy. At the time we decided to postpone the fireworks, we had the report from the Bay Fireworks' onsite supervisor, but had not had time to discuss it thoroughly with them or to talk with their supervisor. The poor weather conditions gave us a sense of urgency to make a decision. Elevating concerns among community members only to find out we were incorrect would have been unfair to the vendor and made us look more foolish than we were bound to look anyways. Only mentioning the weather conditions gave us the time we needed to ensure everything ran with the least disruptions to the community. It is unfair to Howard to blame him for the announcement. He merely told the crowd what the committee had decided. Jay, You can find the list of raffle winners by selecting "Raffle Winners" on the left side of our home page, just below the photograph. To everyone, the committee is always looking for new volunteers. We have a lot of fun putting the day's events together, and our successes are very rewarding. We feel bad when we mess up, and strive to make improvements so the community has a pleasant day. If you're interested in helping to put the events together next year, please use the "Contact Us" section of our Website.
Steve Davies July 14, 2011 at 03:52 AM
Thanks for the reply, Terry. I would use the city website for announcements in the future to ensure the widest distribution possible. I guess I still don't understand what you mean by "Elevating concerns among community members only to find out we were incorrect would have been unfair to the vendor and made us look more foolish than we were bound to look anyways. Only mentioning the weather conditions gave us the time we needed to ensure everything ran with the least disruptions to the community." I'm not sure how telling the crowd that you were way behind schedule and couldn't put the show on (and besides, the weather ain't great) would have raised the level of concern, caused more "disruption" in the crowd or make things "run" worse. All people were going to do was go home. Considering the vendor was late last year and late this year, and had already been paid the full fee for the show ahead of time, I don't think saying that they were behind schedule (for whatever reason) would have been unfair. They're professionals. They had a job to do and they didn't do it as promised. Perhaps there were circumstances beyond their control, I have no idea. But I honestly believe people would have reacted with understanding to a fuller, more detailed explanation (after they hurled a few catcalls and boos, most likely). I would suggest that you remove the reference on your web site to Bay Fireworks as "a fireworks provider of long experience and excellent reputation."

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