Fireworks show is a go in the nick of time

ELEANORE P. LABROZZI PHOTO | Fireworks at Crescent Beach.

Every year it comes down to the wire, but the piping plover chicks have left their nests at Southold’s Conklin Point, directly across from Crescent Beach, in time for the Chamber of Commerce to acquire necessary permits for the fireworks show this Saturday evening.

Expecting 3,000 to 3,500 spectators, Sean McLean, Chamber president, said the show will be an extra special event this year. The Chamber has “changed the show up a little, with some new surprises,” he said, though for the third year it will be launched remotely from a barge off Crescent Beach beginning sometime between about 9:15 and 9:30 p.m.

An added attraction this year will be live music at 8 p.m. by Escola de Samba Boom with a Latin flavor and steel drum vibe. Band director, Islander Richard Siegler, said spectators were sure to enjoy the unique music experience and be on their feet dancing.

All that residents and visitors have to worry about is getting a parking spot. Typically, locals know to get their spots early. Along Crescent Beach, after all the parking spots that require town permits are taken, drivers will be guided to park along West Neck Road and then along Stearns Point Road. When those roadsides are full, parking will be available at the Shelter Island Country Club.

With costs totaling approximately $32,000, Mr. McLean said, only half of the needed funds has been received. Donors can make contributions through PayPal on the Chamber’s website, he noted, saying he was hopeful donations would continue coming in before, during and after the festivities.

To assist fundraising for the event, there will be fireworks-themed T-shirts for sale this year in children’s and adult sizes, donated at cost by Bert Waife of Last Boat T-shirts and designed by local artist Erica Tome. Fiber-optic wands will be a new addition for sale as well, in addition to glow sticks. The Chamber will have a table at the base of the hill to sell souvenirs and accept donations, and items will also be sold by volunteers walking the beach.

Mr. McLean noted that this is his sixth year organizing the event. The use of a barge, he said, is safer than launches from the beach because it is unmanned; the fireworks are controlled by a computer program on a laptop. Using a barge also opens up more room on the beach for spectators, he told the Town Board Tuesday when he reported all was in order for the Chamber’s application for a town permit.

Among those who help make the show happen are John Tehan of Tubby Charters and Bill Clark, who allows the use of the South Ferry’s dock on the North Haven side for the unloading of the fireworks purchased from Bay Fireworks of Westhampton. Volunteers unload the fireworks, load the barge in a ferry boat slip, and then Mr. Tehan’s charter boat escorts the barge to Crescent Beach, where the volunteers meet with the Bay Constable to ensure the barge is anchored at the proper coordinates.

At Tuesday’s Town Board work session, Mr. McLean said the Chamber had obtained the required marine permit from the Coast Guard a day or two earlier than in past years, and that he had submitted it to the Town Clerk. Other necessary logistics included a Department of Environmental Conservation permit — thanks to the fledging of plover chicks on Conklin Point — and an insurance certificate for the barge, which Mr. McLean said he had secured. With everything in order, Town Supervisor Jim Dougherty said the Town Board would adopt a resolution allowing the fireworks for the next day.

The fireworks safety team organized by Police Chief James Read includes the entire Shelter Island Police Force, including part- and full-time traffic controllers, plain-clothes officers employed to prevent under-aged drinking and drug use, and uniformed police patrols. Also on the ground for the event will be the Sheriff’s Department and State Police.

The creation of a water safety zone around the fireworks barge includes the deployment of Shelter Island’s own two Bay Constable boats and the Fire Department’s marine boat, as well as boats from the Coast Guard and neighboring police departments including Southold and Southampton.

First Assistant Fire Chief John D’Amato said that the Shelter Island Fire Department’s volunteers will enjoy supporting the big community event as always, including placement of a tanker with 2,000 gallons of water nearby, and fire trucks at both the base and top of the hill. He said that the department also will provide a generator-operated light truck in the parking lot at the Shelter Island Country Club for safety after the fireworks.