Happy Birthday America: Chautauqua County Celebrates July 4

Lakewood On Wheels Kids’ Parade

Contributing Writer
Walt Pickut

Not many people get to celebrate a 242nd birthday. July 4th 2018 will be another big Yankee Doodle Dandy party day for the U.S.A. Happy Birthday!

Communities all across Chautauqua County are once again hosting their own version of the national celebration with parades, cookouts, music festivals, outdoor games and, of course, the glorious fireworks displays that have become the nation’s signature event for the holiday. A list of Chautauqua County’s celebrations for 2018 is displayed on page XX.

“It takes a lot of hard work to have this much fun,” Mayville’s Rita Jacobson told the Jamestown Gazette in the run-up to Chautauqua County’s official 4th of July Celebration. Rita and her husband Tim, along with their dedicated team of eight volunteers (with an accumulated total of 169 years of experience creating the annual event) have been organizing and running Mayville’s celebrations for more than 30 years.

“This is our way of giving something back to our community for all they have given us,” the Jacobsons said. Theirs is a sentiment echoed across the nation every year on July 4. This year’s theme for Chautauqua County’s capital city is “U.S.A…Bold Stripes, Bright Stars, Brave Hearts.”

More than Fireworks

Each community hosting fireworks and flares in Chautauqua County this year will also be celebrating with a variety of parades, downtown sales, sporting events and games, parades, live music, great festival food and more.

“Whatever you do,” Rita Jacobson said, “don’t go home hungry.” Great festival food, back yard and beach BBQ is among the the 4th of July’s most enduring traditions. Few communities will ignore it this year.

Not everyone celebrating July 4th will have fireworks and flares. Chautauqua Institution, for example, will present their “Independence Day Pops Celebration” with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra at 8:00 p.m. in the newly renovated Amphitheater. Gate passes and tickets are available at 716-357-6250 or ticketoffice@chq.com.

Cherry Creek kicked off their celebrations early this year, with its “Independence Day Celebration in Home Town Tradition,” starting last Friday through Sunday – with amusement rides, food vendors, games, crafters, raffles, a beer and wine tent, chainsaw carving demonstrations, a pie-eating contest, chicken BBQ, mechanical bull rides and live music leading up to the traditional Saturday night fireworks at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 30.

Dunkirk’s City Pier and Memorial Park will offer live music starting with Wooden Ship and The Floyd Concept-Pink Floyd Tribute band, continuing on Wednesday the 4th, with Left of Center at 2:00, Black Diamond at 4:00 and The Rising from 6:00 to 9:00, leading up to the fireworks beside Lake.

Findley Lake leads off the 4th with the Fireman’s Chicken BBQ and the famous Duck Race at the Waterwheel, followed by the 2:00 boat parade. Live music starts at 7:00 until the 10:00 fireworks.

Lakewood’s July 4th Summerfest kicks off with Lakewood YMCA’s early morning “Firecracker Run.” From 1:30 to dusk, bounce houses, carnival games, music, a dunk tank, face painting and more will delight kids, followed at 5:00 by a bike, scooter, skateboard, stroller parade along Chautauqua and Terrace with patriotic costume prizes awarded. Chautauqua Avenue street sales will be open from Noon to 10:00, along with sailboat rides, live music and more until the 10:00 fireworks

Midway State Park. The Independence Day Celebration at Midway State Park is being held on Saturday, July 7th; rides are open late until 10:00 p.m. followed by the fireworks show at 10:15 pm. The Rock ‘n Roll Pet Store Show performs at the stage from 4:30 to 5:00 p.m. during the ride closure for safety inspections.

Long Point State Park will not have fireworks; however, the Beach will be open an extra day on Wednesday, July 4 from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. – regular beach hours are Thursday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

DIY Fireworks

As most local residents now know by the huge tents that have popped up in parking lots across the city, fireworks are now legal to buy and set off in Chautauqua County. Only those purchased in Chautauqua County, however, are legal to set off in the county. The legal sales dates have been confined to June 20 through July 5 and December 26 through January 1.

“They are lots of fun,” a customer named Jasmine, shopping under the big white tent at a local mall, told the Gazette. “We buy the biggest set we can find (at one local stand, $249.00) and set them off when we light our flares on the lake shore. The kids love them,” she laughed, “and the grownups wish they were kids again.”

A Jamestown Police Department spokesperson, however, told the Jamestown Gazette last week that even though certain fireworks are legal, they can still be dangerous. Too many local residents still end up in local hospital emergency rooms. The officer noted that some of the displays shoot sparks that are hotter than 2,000 degrees, can melt some metals, start fires and can certainly cause serious burns.

“The best rule,” the officer said, “is be careful, and be courteous to your neighbors. Loud noises can frighten small children, service dogs and can especially trouble battlefield veterans recovering from wartime trauma.”

Marla Connelly, Park Manager at the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, speaking about guests at Midway and Long Point Parks, asked, “Please do not bring fireworks of any kind, including sparklers, to any New York State Park. For everyone’s safety, they are prohibited in the parks without a special permit.”

One of the local fireworks vendors said, “We can sell it only if it bangs, pops or sizzles, but not if it flies!” Any airborne explosive device is illegal. If any device, launched airborne or ground-based, explodes and goes Bang! it is not legal to sell or set off in Chautauqua County. The vendor more specifically added that Roman candles, bottle rockets, fire crackers and anything that shrieks, makes loud noises or wails like a siren is out.

When it comes to the “Big stuff” Rita Jacobson said, “Leave it to the professionals.”

According to the New York State Department of Homeland Security, legal fireworks are limited to:

“Ground-based or handheld devices that produce a shower of colored sparks and/or a colored flame, audible crackling or a whistling noise and smoke.”

In addition, as a safety warning to parents, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to light or handle a lighted sparkler, even if in the presence of an adult.

Don’t Repeat History

The Star Spangled Banner tells of “Bombs bursting in Air,” a stirring image of the conflict in which the nation was born 242 years ago. Such images have inspired the creation of fireworks displays for America’s annual birthday celebrations. The intent, however, was surely never again to repeat the danger and destruction of that historic conflict… not even accidentally for the beauty of the show.

Happy Birthday America. Celebrate responsibly and enjoy the show.