By Marianne Weaver
From sea to shining sea, as the sun sets on the Fourth of July, both young and old will cast their attention skyward to witness the explosions of color celebrating the birthday of the United States of America. Residents of Prince William don’t have to travel too far to catch spectacular fireworks displays.
Historic Downtown Manassas
The city of Manassas and Historic Manassas Inc. have joined forces to host an All-American party in Historic Downtown Manassas.
The party begins at 3:00 p. m. with kiddie rides. Food concessions and novelty vendors open at 4:00 p. m. But the main draw begins at 9:15 p. m. Bring your chairs and blankets to secure your space on the Manassas Museum lawn.
“People come to set up their viewing locations well in advance of the fireworks beginning,” said David Rhodes, event coordinator for Historic Manassas Inc. “Come early if you want to secure a spot on the lawn to view them.”
Like last year, the top deck of the parking garage, adjacent to the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station, will be transformed into a lively party space and exclusive viewing area.
“The Rooftop Party will include VIP-Only access to the best view of the fireworks and festivities,” said Rhodes. “Adults will receive two drink tickets for adult beverages at the rooftop bar, while minors will receive some tickets for games/rides from the vendors below, as well as a voucher for a sweet treat from one of our participating vendors. Everyone at the VIP Rooftop Party will enjoy a meal from local restaurants and free water and other non-alcoholic beverages throughout the evening.”
Tickets cost $75, and there are a limited number of children’s tickets. For more information, go to visitmanassas.org/event/celebrate-america/.
“I enjoyed viewing the fireworks from the rooftop bar last year. It was a nice view, with lots of space to spread out and be above the crowds,” said Rhodes.
Signal Hill Park, located at 9300 Signal View Drive in Manassas Park, will be filled with a variety of food trucks beginning at 6:00 p. m. Fireworks begin at dusk, usually about 9:15 p. m. The event is free, and a shuttle service is offered to the park from Manassas Park City Hall and the Manassas Park VRE station, where free parking will be available. Shuttles will run from those lots to the corner of Signal View Drive and Manassas Drive. Parking will also be available in the grass lot across from Signal Hill Park starting at 5:30 p.m. for $5 per vehicle. No vehicles will be allowed to park inside of Signal Hill Park.
“Our first fireworks show for July 4 was held in 1975. This is our 43rd year of lighting fireworks in honor of Independence Day,” said Tony Thomas, recreation services supervisor for the Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation. “We look forward to welcoming everyone. No glass bottles, alcohol,
fireworks, sparklers, drones or pressure cookers will be allowed into the park. Admission is free!”
There’s nothing more American than baseball and fireworks. Catch the Potomac Nationals taking on the Salem Red Sox at 6:35 p. m. at G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium located at 7 County Complex Court in Woodbridge. The annual fireworks display begins immediately after the game. Ticket prices vary but are
generally less than $20 each.
Sarah Pitkin, of Gainesville, recommended parking in the Harris Teeter parking lot on Liberia Avenue. “That is the best place on a clear night because you can see City of Manassas, Manassas Park and Pfitzner Stadium shows from one place,” she said. “They’re not all up-close, but there are lots of sparkles, a good bathroom, and snack replacements available!”
National Mall Fourth of July Celebration
The fireworks begin promptly at 9:09 p. m. and end at 9:27 p. m., but the National Park Service has a full day of events planned for visitors.
The Independence Day Parade starts at 11:45 a. m. on Constitution Avenue, NW, at 7th Street and concludes at 17th Street, NW, at 2:00 p. m. At 6:00 p. m. the United States Navy Band performs at the Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the Washington Monument.
The Capitol Fourth Concert, on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, begins at 8:00 p. m. and concludes at 9:30 p. m. Gates open at 3:00 p. m., and the public will not be admitted before that time. Hosted by John Stamos, this year’s lineup includes the Four Tops, the Beach Boys and Trace Adkins. The concert concludes with fireworks accompanied by the National Symphony Orchestra. Fireworks are launched from an area of the Reflecting Pool and are visible throughout the District and Northern Virginia. In the case of heavy rain, thunderstorms or high winds, the fireworks will be launched July 5.
An American Celebration at Mount Vernon
Not all fireworks happen after dark. Mount Vernon salutes the first commander-in-chief during its annual Independence Day event with made-for-daytime fireworks that shoot off over the Potomac
River. The day is filled with special military re-enactments.
“Mount Vernon’s Independence Day celebration provides the most unique event experience in the country,” said Melissa Wood, director of media relations. “Where else can you watch daytime fireworks, greet “General Washington,” and watch 100 individuals become new U.S. citizens? The military reenactment with its cannons seem to be a favorite of children visiting the estate that day.”
Tickets, available online at mountvernon.org, range in cost from $11 to $20. The event is from 9:00 a. m. to 5:00 p. m.
“I would suggest purchasing your ticket in advance to skip the ticket line,” added Wood. “We have 50 acres for our guests to explore, so comfortable walking shoes are recommended. Bottled water is allowed on the grounds. Parking information and the program for the day will be posted on our website in advance of the visit, so please check our website when planning your visit.”
Great Meadow Independence Day Celebration
Just a few exits west on Route 66, nestled in The Plains, is Great Meadow, a 375-acre field events center and steeplechase course. Each July 4, the gates open at 4:00 p. m., and carloads of families pile in for a day of activities.
“We advise guests to come by 6:00 p. m. to enjoy the festivities and get a great spot to watch the fireworks,” said Teresa Condon, director of operations. “We have a wonderful variety of food vendors, including select food trucks, offering burgers, fries, hot dogs, Asian food and chicken, as well as ice cream, snow cones and much more. The product vendors also vary and offer toys, summer clothing, jewelry, art and specialty gifts.”
This year’s activities include pony rides, a polo demonstration, a run through the “famous” rain machine, a selection of children’s games, a major tug-of-war competition and an air show demonstration.
“The highlight is definitely the amazing fireworks show choreographed to music,” noted Condon. “Our Members Hill area is a great place to view and enjoy the entire day; however, there is not a bad seat in the house.”
Condon suggested purchasing tickets in advance at Wegmans in Gainesville or online at greatmeadow.org/july-4th. Prices range from $35 per car to $2,750 for a corporate tent.
“Pack a picnic supper, or purchase food onsite. Bring some chairs and a blanket. Some people even bring outdoor portable games like cornhole, frisbees and Nerf footballs,” she said. “Of course, never leave home without the sunscreen, and leave nothing behind at Great Meadow but your footprints.”
At-Home Firework Safety
Every year, some residents opt out of the professional displays and instead put together their own fireworks show for friends, family and neighbors. And every year, emergency responders are called to put out fires and treat injuries.
“My first piece of advice would be to leave the fireworks to the professionals,” said Occoquan Woodbridge-Lorton (OWL) Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jim McAllister. “And if you are set on doing them, look up the laws and follow safety tips.”
The Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue has posted a comprehensive list of permissible fireworks at pwcgov.org/government/dept/FR/fmo/Pages/Permissible-Fireworks.aspx.
“It’s like driving a car,” said McAllister. “You don’t go out and do it until you understand the rules.”
He added that vendors in pop-up stands selling fireworks in parking lots across the region are all aware of the regulations. “Those stands are inspected, and they are required to post a certificate,” he said. “Anything they sell is permissible in Prince William County.”
That said, he noted that all fireworks can be harmful, even sparklers. “Any fireworks can go awry at any time,” he said. “Understand basic fire safety—stop, drop and roll—and have fire extinguishers nearby.”
He urged adults to pay close attention to children playing with sparklers. “Know that they can cause harm,” he said. “Teach the child to hold it as far away from the body as possible.”
And keep a metal bucket with water nearby to collect used sparklers and fireworks after they have cooled. Further, don’t leave used fireworks in the grass where someone may step on them.
He said his station typically handles more fire calls on July 4 than injury calls. “Last year was classic. People were using fireworks too close to a residence,” he said. “We had two significant house fires within a few hours of each other in just the OWL area. The houses sustained significant damage.”
In short, take a tip from the Boy Scouts: Be prepared. “Things will go wrong,” he said. “Know how to remedy the situation in the fastest and safest way possible.”
Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University