For many, the excitement of an extra-long fireworks show last Fourth of July quickly turned into anger, frustration and impatience, as the roads out of Lewes were gridlocked for several hours.
With 12 months to prepare for Round 2, organizers think they’ve ironed out the details for a better show.
“Last year, we had no idea what to expect,” said Paul Evalds, who co-founded the Go Fourth Lewes Fireworks show with fellow Lewes resident Russ Palmer. “We had no idea how many people would show up, what the traffic would be like and how people would react.”
The biggest change this year will be the closure of the Savannah Road drawbridge at 7 p.m. and Freeman Highway bridge at 8 p.m. No vehicles will be allowed through after those times, but they will still be open to walkers and bicyclists. After the show, which is slated to begin shortly after 9 p.m. and last about 20 minutes, Savannah Road and Freeman Highway will be one way out.
Evalds said he expects police to dedicate one lane for vehicular traffic, and another for bicyclists and pedestrians.
Vehicles using Savannah Road will not be able to turn onto Gills Neck Road, Front Street or Kings Highway. Evalds said it will keep people moving, and once they’re beyond Kings Highway, they can use side streets to circle back to downtown if needed.
Parking will not be permitted along Cape Henlopen Drive from Savannah Road to Cape Henlopen State Park. Evalds said there will be plenty of signage, and it will be enforced.
All Lewes Police officers will be on duty, along with volunteers from Lewes Fire Department and other police agencies such as Delaware River and Bay Authority.
Even with a new plan in place, Evalds said, people need to be prepared to wait.
“We’re trying to get everyone’s expectations a little bit more realistic,” he said. “We should be able to navigate better this year now that we know where the choke points are. But everybody should realize that Rehoboth does this every year, and they have more roads than we do, and they wait two hours every year.”
For those eager to leave immediately following the show, Evalds recommends walking or riding to the beach, or watching the fireworks from the downtown side of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
“We learned last year that you can see the fireworks from pretty much anywhere in downtown Lewes,” he said. “Canalfront Park, the boat ramp … you don’t have to be on the other side of the canal to see them. People there had a great time and didn’t have traffic issues.”
During the show, organizers plan to add many more port-a-potties at Beach 1 and Beach 2. Both bathrooms at Beach 1 will be ladies rooms only, and showers will be shut off at 7 p.m.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry will again remain open for the show this year. Live music from Glass Onion will be available from 6:30 to 10 p.m., with a break during the fireworks show.
Activities such as face painting will be available. Parking is free, but attendees are warned that the parking lot will remain closed until at least 30 minutes after the fireworks show ends to help with the traffic situation.
The fireworks will again be launched from a barge about 1,500 feet off Beach 1. The Coast Guard, DNREC Fish & Wildlife and the Lewes fire boat will be in the water patrolling and ensuring boaters are a safe distance from the barge.
Evalds said fundraising is falling a little short of last year, but he doesn’t foresee it being an issue. He said a several smaller donations of $100, $250 and $500 have come in recently to help build up the total. He said the show is not funded by the City of Lewes, and all money is raised through donations from individuals or businesses.
A fundraising event will be held at the Pig and Publican Wednesday, June 12, when the restaurant will donate a portion of its sales to the fireworks fund.
For more information about the event or to donate, go to www.gofourthlewes.org.