Ocean City looking for fireworks pros for July 4 show

Leaders in Ocean City, Maryland, are on the hunt for a company to put on the July Fourth fireworks shows there.

There hasn’t been one on Independence Day since 2019. The 2020 shows at Northside Park on 125th Street and on the beach at North Division Street were canceled during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 shows there were canceled over safety concerns following what fire officials called “unintentionally discharged” fireworks on the beach at Dorchester Street hours before the planned events.

Last summer, a single show was held on July 5, after the town’s new vendor said it was unable to produce the expected two shows on July 4 due to labor shortages.

The vendor had signed a three-year agreement with Ocean City earlier in January. That vendor was the only one to bid on the contract, and there are concerns that the town won’t be able to find another vendor due to consolidation in the pyrotechnics industry.

Now, town officials are considering three options moving forward — two of them new proposals — as it opens up bidding again for fireworks vendors in an effort to return fireworks to the sky above Ocean City on July 4, 2023, and beyond.

Changes to the town’s request for proposal — or RFP — include:

  • Keeping Ocean City’s RFP generally the same as years past.
  • Staggering the shows at Northside Park and on the beach so a single crew work both events on separate nights, leading to the possibility of two shows between July 3 and July 5.
  • Increase the budget for the Independence Day fireworks shows, in an effort to make them more appealing in a competitive bid environment among vendors; at the expense of fireworks during Ocean City’s Winterfest.

During a work session held by the mayor and town council on Tuesday, Tom Perlozzo, Ocean City’s director of tourism and business development, recommended keeping the RFP the same: “However, I do believe that we need to reevaluate New Year’s Eve,” he said.

“Typically these fireworks companies, if their workforce is limited, they’re going to go where the highest dollar value is available,” Perlozzo said.

Meanwhile, prospective fireworks vendors don’t like the idea of launching from the 900-foot pier at Northside Park, as has been done in previous years, said Frank Miller, Ocean City’s director of special events.

Miller suggested altering the existing RFP could lead to a pair of vendors for the July Fourth shows.

While council member John Gehrig said he’s for “keeping the RFP the same,” he would back a move to end New Year’s Eve fireworks if that preserves July 4.

“July Fourth is Independence Day, not July 3 or July 5,” Gehrig said.

Matt Small

Matt joined WTOP News at the start of 2020, after contributing to Washington’s top news outlet as an Associated Press journalist for nearly 18 years.

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