For the first time in decades, Rehoboth Beach won’t celebrate Independence Day with fireworks.
In a press release April 24, the city announced that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, July 3 fireworks are canceled, along with the Bandstand Summer Concert Series through July 4 weekend. All permitted special events scheduled through the holiday weekend are also canceled.
“The health and safety of the community is our top priority and at the forefront of all decisions made during this unprecedented and rapidly evolving situation,” said Mayor Paul Kuhns, in a prepared statement. “It is difficult to accept that these cherished events cannot continue as planned this year. We look forward to the day when we can all come together once again and celebrate the events that make Rehoboth Beach such a wonderful and connected community.”
Rehoboth’s decision came a week to the day after Dover canceled its fireworks celebration. In an email April 20, Krys Johnson, city spokeswoman, said Rehoboth was monitoring the situation.
In a follow-up email April 25, Kuhns said the decision to cancel July 3 fireworks was finalized April 24.
The July 4 weekend is considered to be one of the biggest weekends of the year for the city and its business. At this point, Kuhns said it’s unknown what the economic impact will be.
Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce President Carol Everhart was disappointed with the decision, but said she understood it was necessary.
“Another cancellation added to the growing devastating list for businesses, residents, visitors and the entire area,” said Everhart, in an email April 24.
Kuhns said the funding of fireworks for 2019 through 2021 was paid in advance, at a cost of $32,700 a year. He said there will be no penalties for canceling the 2020 fireworks, so the funding will now be used for 2022.
Kuhns said there is no plan to reschedule 2020 fireworks at this time.
Rehoboth commissioners agree with cancellation
Commissioner Susan Gay said she disappointed the city will not be able to have its traditional celebration this year, but supported the mayor’s decision.
“Cancelling it is the right thing to do under the circumstances,” said Gay. “The top priority right now should be to keep everyone – residents, property owners, business owners and employees, and visitors – safe.”
Commissioner Dick Byrne said decisions must be driven by science and public health professionals.
“The health of our community must be the priority right now,” said Byrne. “We will not get back to normal until we are safe and healthy.”
Commissioner Lisa Schlosser said she agreed with the decision to cancel the fireworks, but called on Kuhns and her fellow commissioners to explore ways to help businesses and citizens during this time.
“I applaud the mayor for working with the governor and other towns to protect the health and safety of our community,” said Schlosser, in an email April 24. “I also urge the mayor and commissioners to solicit public input and help our businesses and residents by considering deferment of wastewater/water bill payments; delay of parking enforcement; and reduction of operational expenses from the city budget”.
In response to Schlosser’s comments, Kuhns said parking is approximately 35 to 40 percent of the city's annual budget and that only flows during the 100 days of summer.
“We would be doing a substantial disservice to our constituents by foregoing revenues that might keep the city afloat,” said Kuhns. “Additionally, given the current pandemic and health situation, parking may be a good way to control the flow of traffic in the downtown area while social distancing restrictions are still in place.”
Kuhns said the city will examine every expense in the current budget and the possibility of cutting since revenue will be much lower than expected. However, he said, cutting expenses while cutting revenues is not a very good accounting practice.
For the latest event updates, visit cityofrehoboth.com and rehobothbandstand.com. For more information, contact the communications department at 302-227-6181 ext. 522 or firstname.lastname@example.org.