Committee to examine fireworks

August 14, 2002|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A committee has been formed to examine ways to make the annual Fourth of July fireworks display at War Memorial Park safer and better, after last month's show was halted because several fights broke out at the park.

At last week's City Council meeting, four members of the committee - Martinsburg Police Chief Ted Anderson, Mayor George Karos and Councilmen Max Parkinson and Gregg Wachtel - were approved to serve on the committee.

Others on the committee include members of the Martinsburg-Berkeley County Parks & Recreation Board and Parks & Recreation Director Steve Catlett.


The committee, which has not yet met, will discuss several issues, Catlett said Tuesday. Finding a better way to handle the crowd is one important task, he said.

A few of the 3,000 to 4,000 attendees at the most recent display caused enough chaos that the fireworks were delayed for about 30 minutes, Catlett said. Two juveniles were arrested and several other people were escorted out of the park, police said.

Minutes before the finale, police ordered that the fireworks be halted. For safety reasons, the fireworks did not resume until most people had left the park, Catlett said. The finale was already wired, so it was safer and simpler to set off the fireworks, even though few may have seen the display, he said.

Since then, there was some talk that the fireworks might be held at a different location or stopped altogether.

Wachtel said he hopes and believes the problems will be worked out so the display can continue to be held at War Memorial Park.

"I think that's the best place for everybody to see them," he said. "I definitely don't want to see it stopped."

Committee members also will discuss whether to set off the fireworks from farther away from the crowd. Smoke and noise may have made crowd control more difficult than usual, Catlett said.

Anderson referred questions to Karos, who was unavailable for comment.

Lighting the fuses from a different site could also minimize the possibility of a firework misfiring into the crowd, an ever-present concern, Catlett said.

Parks & Recreation has been in charge of the fireworks since the board took over operation of the park off Tennessee Avenue in 1987. Before that, a volunteer board oversaw both the park and the fireworks display.

Discussing a better way to pay for the fireworks, which cost $3,000 this year, is also a task for the committee, Catlett said. The fireworks display is paid for by donations.

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