For 20-some years, the July 3 Patriotic Evening has had special meaning in the city of Inverness.
Thousands of families flock to Liberty or Wallace Brooks parks to enjoy food, entertainment, games and, of course, the grand finale: blazing fireworks above Big Lake Henderson.
This year, forget all that — except the fireworks.
The city, which is undergoing a $13 million Depot District renovation, has both parks closed for construction until late October.
City officials considered cancelling the fireworks, but decided to go ahead and encourage visitors to find somewhere to view them.
“We looked for other places but couldn’t find a venue where there would be safety,” City Manager Frank DiGiovanni said. “There are high points of the city all around. And the lake has an unobstructed view.”
Still, he acknowledged: “It’s not the best situation.”
The fireworks program and associated costs total about $17,000 to the city, marketing manager Liz Fernley said.
The city is getting the word out through a marketing campaign that there will be no Patriotic Evening event and parks will be closed for the fireworks as well.
“We’re expecting more people to crowd other parks to get the best seat they can,” Fernley said.
Council members Jacquie Hepfer and David Ryan said they didn’t realize the city decided to keep fireworks until they read about it.
“It hasn’t come up at council,” Ryan said. “I was just as much in the dark as anybody else.”
Hepfer said she doesn’t know what to tell people who ask for the best viewing locations.
“I’m concerned the town is going to be a free-for-all,” she said. “Thousands of people will show up and there will be nowhere for them to go.”
Ryan admitted it won’t be the same as in past years.
“Nothing beats Liberty Park,” he said. “This year we’re all just going to have to deal with a little bit of congestion and a little bit of patience.”