There will be two Fourth of July fireworks displays Saturday in Sussex County.
One is a private display at Treasure Island, a gated campground in Selbyville that will not admit visitors.
The other is a public display at a Georgetown barbecue restaurant that started out as a simple thank you for customers that have kept the restaurant afloat during the coronavirus shutdown. It’s morphed into a production requiring social distancing, hand sanitizer stations, portable bathrooms and mowing down soybeans so customers can park in the 32-acre field next door.
“Right now I’m still a go. Until I hear no, no, no, my fingers are crossed, my toes are crossed,” said Brenda Frey, owner of Fat Daddy’s BBQ at 3:30 p.m. Thursday. “I still have 38 hours before the event. I’m still pushing through this. I’m pushing as hard as I can.”
Across the state, communities have canceled their traditional fireworks shows because of worries that COVID-19 spreads more easily in crowds. The last big show sponsored by a town was in Dewey Beach, and businessman Alex Pires canceled that Tuesday after he received a letter from the state saying he couldn’t have it.
Treasure Beach got one of those letters, too, said Kenny Stevens and Pam Adkins from the campground. He immediately called to explain that the campground doesn’t gather people together or allow visitors to enter. People who have rented a space there watch from their RVs.
State officials agreed the show could go on and withdrew their cease and desist order.
“Ultimately,” Stevens said, “the important thing is to distinguish between what is an event and what is a display. We’ve been putting together a display for people who are here. In no way, shape or form is this a public display. This is very private.”
The 20-minute show can be seen from nearby communities, he said, but only those who have a campsite are allowed on the grounds.
The facility uses the same pyrotechnics company that creates displays for Ocean City, Maryland and other beach towns.
Stevens says he’s is not worried about people trying to get onto the property to watch. It’s gated with good security, he said.
Frey says she has not heard from the state.
But the state says it has been monitoring the plans for the display.
“We are reviewing the provided proposal in consultation with the Division of Public Health and will continue to be in contact with the event organizers,” said Damian DeStefano of the Division of Small Business in a prepared statement. He’s the person who signed cease and desist letters to Pires and to Treasure Island.
“We are taking every precaution we can take,” said Frey. Hand sanitizer stations arrive in the morning. Portable potties are on their way. Picnic tables are spread out so families can social distance together.
She says she’s not sure how many will come.
“I just know we are going to do our very best to socially distance people,” she said. “People will have to wear masks and do what they have to do to feel protected.”
Frey says she started planning the event as a customer thank you because her business has been able to keep every single employee working, thanks to sales never flagging through the lockdown.
When someone pointed out the Fourth of July was a Saturday, she called entertainer Mike Hines. Everything he had planned had been canceled, and he was happy to perform. She called the fireworks company, and it also had a lot of shows canceled and agreed to work with her.
Customers started offering to help and other businesses signed on to sponsor.
Hines will start performing at 7 p.m. and the fireworks are set for 9:15 p.m. at the restaurant at 13203 Seashore Highway in Georgetown.
“Of course I never wanted to make this about the virus because it’s not what this day is about,” Frey said. “It’s not about coronavirus. It has everything to do with our independence, our freedom, our men and woman that are fighting out on the front lines for us, keeping us safe here in the United States of America, and we need to salute them and honor them.”
Some people want to make the event all about the virus, she says. It’s not, she said.
“It’s about safety, positivity, the red, white and blue God Bless America one nation under God, because that’s my thing,” she said.
People who are worried about public gatherings should stay home or can watch from their vehicle, she said. People who feel sick should definitely stay home, she said.
Her customers and the community are excited about the show, which has become a ray of hope for many, she said.
“I believe that if this does happen for any reason, there’s going to be issues,” she said. “I think people are going to be very upset.”
Fireworks aren’t only pretty, she said. They are also a symbol of freedom and independence.
“There’s a lot of positivity going on,” she said. “A lot of people can’t believe this is still happening. I can. I’m not going to say that there hasn’t been concerns. i’m not going to say that there hasn’t been hiccups.
“But I’m not going down without a fight. I’m going to push through until 7 o’clock on the Fourth and Mike Hines takes that stage and I know everybody is safe.”