In what was expected to be a night filled with vibrant fireworks, hundreds of spectators around Marblehead Harbor were instead greeted by an unrelenting, dense fog.
The heavy fog that rolled in from the sea concealed the sky, reducing the anticipated fireworks to only bursts of color visible through the mist. This damp, foggy evening stood in stark contrast to the vibrant spectacle typically associated with the Marblehead fireworks and harbor illumination, casting a pall over the annual tradition — typically the bookend to a four-day celebration.
Despite rain and thunderstorm predictions, the fog turned out to be the unexpected spoiler for the fireworks launched from a barge at the mouth of Marblehead Harbor at 9:30 p.m.
Alexander Falk has chaired the Marblehead Fireworks Committee for 15 years. “We have never had to use the rain date,” he said. “We had to cancel a total of three times (one hurricane that made it impossible for the barge to come up from Boston and two years of the pandemic).”
He said the decision to proceed on the Fourth of July was influenced by detailed weather forecasts and consultations with meteorologists.
“We did notice that the forecast now added the potential for fog starting after 11 p.m., but that was not our main concern, as the show would end well before then,” Falk told the Marblehead Current on Wednesday afternoon. “We were concerned about thunderstorms and rain… and it looked like we were going to be OK on that front, with storms again likely dissipating by 8 p.m.”
He offered insight into the complexities of coordinating the fireworks display and the decision to ultimately launch them.
“The fact that we had a thick fog bank roll into Marblehead Harbor right at about 9:10 p.m. and got more and more dense throughout the fireworks show was the most unfortunate outcome,” Falk said. “[It was] not something that was predicted, nor could we have done anything about it at that time.”
He added, “Once the fireworks are loaded, there is no way to ‘unload’ them. You have to fire them off.”
Marblehead and Lynn split the bill for the fireworks barge and its tows, requiring their fireworks shows to be on two consecutive days.
“There is simply no contingent or possibility for both towns having to use the rain date. It has never happened before, and it wouldn’t be possible,” said Falk. “In our fireworks permit applications with the United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Fire Marshal, we have to give the official date and the rain date, and there is no option to have a ‘second rain date,’ if the first one is used by the other town.’’
Alex Summers, a lifelong resident of Marblehead, reflected on the obscured fireworks display at the crowded Fort Beach.
“At least we had a lovely harbor illumination,” she said, finding a silver lining in the foggy spectacle. Her boyfriend, Ryan Long, a first-time visitor, shared a similar sentiment.
“The entire harbor is illuminated by one color at a time,” Long noted. “It’s heartwarming to see everyone in the harbor focused and engaged at the same moment.”
For Summers, this was the first time in her life she had experienced a Fourth of July without a full view of the fireworks display.
The weather muffled the typical chorus of oohs and aahs that accompanies a Marblehead fireworks display. The disappointment was evident among the spectators, who couldn’t catch a glimpse of the fireworks from popular vantage points such as the Causeway, Crocker Park or Clark’s Landing. As people departed the harborfront, many said they wished the event had been postponed.
Some people enjoyed the fog’s effect on the fireworks display, Falk said.
“We received tremendous responses from people near the mouth of the harbor,” said Falk. “People called it ephemeral, whispy, serene, beautiful, etc., and we saw many amazing photos of the fireworks shining through the fog in a magical display of beauty and amplified colors.”
Before the fireworks, Maureen Dart Szymczak, a 38-year Marblehead resident, expressed her anticipation.
“I love every holiday — Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas — but I have to say, the Fourth of July and the Marblehead Festival of the Arts are my favorite. The array of activities is just fabulous,” she said, standing at the public dock next to the Landing Restaurant.
Earlier in the day, the Marblehead Festival of Arts engaged families with art exhibits, Street Festival, Literary Festival, concerts and model boat events. The Glover’s Marblehead Regiment added a historical touch to the day, with musket firings and a reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The Horribles Parade, another town tradition, was postponed to July 9 due to the weather forecast.
The Marblehead Fourth of July fireworks display and harbor illumination relies on private donations from individuals, local groups, and businesses to make this event spectacular. Mail donations to Marblehead Fireworks Committee c/o Selectmen’s Office Abbot Hall 188 Washington Street Marblehead, MA 01945 or donate online at: https://bit.ly/3pBMAjz