There will still be fireworks this Fourth of July

— Created July 1, 2020 by Kathy Reed

By Melanie Hammons

Folks who’ve been on Whidbey Island awhile know summertime really begins July 4, rather than June 20.  Although the customary fireworks extravaganzas at in Freeland and Oak Harbor have been canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, all is not lost:  You can still bring on summer right in your own backyard, thanks to all the fireworks kiosks around town.

The local Knights of Columbus chapter in Oak Harbor is one of those vendors.  The group sells fireworks every year, with proceeds donated to a wide range of charities, including Relay for Life and North Whidbey Help House, among numerous others.

“We do this every year, not for personal gain but for charity, and we believe we offer the best deal in town,” said Richard Mueller, spokesman for the Knights.  He called the group’s venture a great way for people to socialize smartly on the holiday, maybe enjoy a meal together, and “just have fun.”

Of course, the significance of Independence Day runs much deeper than just Roman candles and sparklers, Mueller said. 

“It affords us a grand opportunity to get together, not just as families and neighbors, but as Americans,” he said.

It’s no secret the neighborhood fireworks shows around Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island are pretty legendary on their own merits. In view of that, Mueller stressed the Knights’ desire that folks have fun while they use their Washington-state legal fireworks safely.

Ray Merrill, Oak Harbor Fire Department chief, agrees and says there’s a way to do both.

 “We anticipate that there may be many more individuals and neighborhoods choosing to celebrate with fireworks this holiday, since the Chamber-sponsored event had to cancel, but we just don’t know,” he said. “As always, fire department personnel remain alert in case something arises.”

Merrill also said the fire department’s website has easy-to-use links to state regulations and fire safety tips.  Many of the Island’s volunteer fire departments, such as South Whidbey Fire/EMS, do as well.

Nationwide, a scaled-down celebration approach is very typical this Independence Day, said Vicki Graham, Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce interim executive director.

“Our hope is to come back next year bigger and better,” said Graham of the Chamber-sponsored event.  Beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday, she said the Chamber is hosting a Red, White, and Blue Drive-thru. “We’ll be handing out patriotic ‘goody bags’ in the Chamber office parking lot until supplies run out.”

Looking forward, Graham also hinted at the possibility of a fireworks show to usher in the New Year.

This year, the volunteers who man the Knights’ fireworks kiosk believe venues such as theirs are needed more than ever, said Mueller.  He called the endeavor a “win-win-win situation,” and characterized it as a family affair, involving the spouses of Knights members, too.

 The Knights of Columbus stand, located on Hwy 20 in the Auld Holland Inn parking lot, accepts both cash and credit cards.

“We invite everyone to come out, and purchase fireworks to have fun with, all while helping out the local charities,” Mueller stressed.  “It’s time, more than ever, to come together and celebrate.”

Celebrate the Fourth Safely
There are different rules governing municipalities on Whidbey Island for when and where fireworks can be lit up:

Coupeville: July 4 only, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m.
   Langley: July 4 only, 9 a.m. – midnight
   Oak Harbor: June 29-July 3, 5: 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. | July 4, 9 a.m. – midnight
   Unincorporated Island County: July 3 & 5, 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. | July 4, 9 a.m. -midnight

– Fireworks may only be used on private property

– Legal fireworks include novelties, smoke and snakes, ground spinners, Roman candles, sparklers, etc.

– Firecrackers, bottle rockets and missiles and rockets may be discharged on tribal lands only

– Cherry bombs, tennis ball bombs, pipe bombs and altered or homemade fireworks are illegal everywhere