FARMINGDALE — Preparing dozens of Fourth of July celebrations always means a lot of work for Central Maine Pyrotechnics President Steven Marson, but it turns out postponing dozens of shows is even worse.
“I’ve never had it this bad before,” he said.
Fireworks displays and Fourth of July events were canceled throughout the day Thursday, including shows in Augusta, Belgrade, Carrabasset Valley, Jackman and Winthrop.
Augusta has rescheduled its fireworks show to coincide with AugustaFest on Aug. 2. Other activities from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Old Fort Western and the 4 p.m. parade still are scheduled to take place. Mill Park events — a concert, a bounce house, and hay rides — have been canceled.
“The only way it won’t go down the parade route is if we start getting thunder and lightning,” Augusta Recreation Director Bruce Chase said. “If it’s raining, the parade will still happen.”
Winthrop and Jackman officials were hoping to have a show on Saturday, though Winthrop Chamber of Commerce’s Lacaya Hoyt said officials there were continuing to monitor the weather. If the show is postponed Saturday, it will be rescheduled for a yet-to-be-determined date later this summer, Hoyt said.
Jackman officials, too, hope to have a show Saturday, depending on wind and weather. The town’s Family Fun Day parade is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday.
Carabasset Valley canceled its fireworks display and hasn’t scheduled a makeup day yet. Belgrade moved its 4 p.m. parade and 9:15 p.m. fireworks from Friday to Saturday.
Officials of the area’s largest July Fourth celebration, the Winslow Family Fourth of July Celebration, still are planning to hold their fireworks celebration Friday night, weather permitting, according to committee chairman Kevin Douglass. The fireworks are scheduled to begin shortly after 9 p.m. Friday, following a celebratory parade that morning.
Industry has its annual Clearwater Lake boat parade scheduled for dusk Friday night. Fireworks are scheduled for dusk Saturday at Wing’s Field, with a Sunday rain date.
Event organizers, such as Marson, will be paying particular attention to the weather over the next couple of days. Marson spent Thursday hunkered down in his office, fielding one call after another from towns and businesses in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont hoping to reschedule their fireworks shows.
With multiple computer screens working, a large flat-screen blasting updates on the latest on Hurricane Arthur’s trek up the Eastern Seaboard, and computer updates from the National Weather Service projected onto a large pull-down screen, the office took on the feel of a military war room. Marson went to the computer and pulled up the weather service’s projections for rain on Friday and rain and wind on Saturday, and shook his head. Marson’s company was scheduled to do 85 shows over the weekend across the four states. All but a handful of the Friday shows already had been postponed by noon Thursday. The weather service is predicting an 80 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms during the day Friday and a 70 percent chance of rain Friday night.
“Trucks we had loaded to leave today have been unloaded and put back in storage,” Marson said. “July Fourth is a washout.”
Most of those who postponed wanted to reschedule the show for Saturday, but Marson warned each that shows on that day for much of Maine might be impossible to stage as well. The weather service was predicting rain to continue falling on the northern two-thirds of the state until 2 p.m. Saturday, when Marson’s crews need to begin setting up. More concerning, however, was forecasters call for wind gusting to at least 15 mph, and up to 51 mph at 5 p.m. Saturday. Regulations prohibit shooting fireworks when the wind exceeds 20 mph, but Marson said the company tries to keep to a 15-mph threshold because of the risk of blowing embers.
“These are all unsafe conditions,” Marson said, looking at the weather map. “Anything 15 miles per hour or more, for our agency, is borderline. In order to set up a show, we have to have a window to operate in.”
Every postponement kicks off a flurry of other calls, including to the fire marshals in all four states, insurance companies and local law enforcement.
“It’s a very large administrative process,” he said.
Marson spent several minutes with each of his customers Thursday to go over the weather forecast in minutiae typically reserved for meteorologists.
“Can you do Sunday?” he asked one customer. “Sunday looks real good.”
Marson reminds the customer of a recent show that was postponed because of weather. The decision, while ultimately disappointing, meant a crowd-pleasing display a couple days later when the weather was nice.
“I want to do your show; don’t get me wrong,” Marson said, “but I want it to be fine and good conditions.”
Staff writers Jesse Scardina and Susan McMillan contributed to this report.
Craig Crosby — 621-5642