A Herndon tradition, dating back at least three decades, came to an end last year as the town prepares for its first Fourth of July Celebration away from Herndon High School. Beginning Friday, town officials are excited to begin a new tradition, as the annual Independence Day festivities and fireworks shift from the bleachers around the high-school football field to Bready Park alongside the Herndon Community Center.
"Yes, we have a new location this year at Bready Park. They will be launching the fireworks from the golf course which gives us a little more flexibility," said Art Anselene, the town’s parks and recreation director. "It’s a great new environment. I think folks will really like it."
Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the public is invited to the park on Ferndale Avenue for a night of what organizers are calling "great, family fun" and, of course, fireworks. Since the holiday falls on a Friday this year, residents looking for a slightly more adult atmosphere, but still within view of the choreographed fireworks show, can stroll to the Town Green for Friday Night Live!, downtown Herndon's free weekly summer concert series.
In conjunction with the Town Council, Anselene and his department, which presents the town sponsored show, decided to move the event from its more intimate home at Herndon High School. While a popular draw year in and year out, the school’s small confined location actually contributed to this year’s change in venues. "With the wind and the relatively small area, we have had some concerns about fireworks debris and smoke getting into and landing on the crowd and into people’s eyes. We have always had some complaints in years past," the parks and recreation chief said. "Given all the risk factors, helped the council come to consensus and realize it was time to make the switch."
Because the change was made for safety reasons, Anselene did not envision a scenario that would send the celebration back to the grounds of the high school. "I presume this is a permanent change," he said. "There are no other spots like Bready Park that could accommodate us in this way."
ANSELENE SAID HE was looking forward to this year’s "old-fashioned" celebration, complete with tug-of-war, Bingo and sack races, though he acknowledged that some town traditionalists might be hesitant to embrace, at least initially, the change. "I’m sure there will be a lot of people that will not like the location because the crowd will be all spread out," Anselene said. "But we have a great show planned, so we will see."
The new location allows fireworks organizers to have more freedom to have larger fireworks this year. "In years past, we had to reduce the size of the fireworks," Anselene said.
As in the past, however, residents are reminded that private fireworks, approved or otherwise, and sparklers are prohibited at Bready Park or the Town Green. Fairfax County Fire and Rescue spokesman Lt. Raúl Castillo said that Fourth of July-related injuries — 8,000 nationwide — are "not as common as we might perceive," but Castillo said there still a lot of injuries that go unreported and grass and house fires, which result from misused fireworks. For children under the age of 10, "sparklers are the biggest hazard," he said. "They may look safe and pretty; however they can reach temperatures of 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit, in the hands of some playful young children," the lieutenant said. "At the very least, there should be adult supervision, at all times."
With the absence of the school’s bleachers, residents are encouraged to bring picnic dinners, blankets and lawn chairs out to the park. In addition, the town will have food vendors on site from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.; at which time the fireworks show will begin.
Over at the Town Green, and with a good view of the downtown fireworks, Friday Night Live! will continue in concert with the Bready Park party. "To have July Fourth fall on a Friday the first year the fireworks are held downtown should make for a great Independence Day celebration," said event chair Doug Downer, in a release. Two live bands, "d205" and "The Electric Company," are scheduled to headline the July Fourth edition of the series, now in its ninth season. As usual, five different food vendors and beer and wine sales will be sold at the Herndon Municipal Center site. The free outdoor concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and will run until 11 p.m.