Labor Day fireworks pushed back

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The Highlands Chamber of Commerce has postponed the fireworks show scheduled for Labor Day weekend.

The already postponed Fourth of July fireworks rescheduled for Labor Day, have been postponed again due to concerns regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

The Chamber of Commerce had suggested New Year’s Eve as an alternative backup date, but the Highlands Board of Commissioners nixed the idea due to security and staffing concerns over the holidays during the board’s Thursday, Aug. 20 meeting. 

The Chamber though, is still looking for an alternate date to shoot off the fireworks. 

Chamber Executive Director Kaye McHan said in a written statement, postponing the fireworks was unavoidable. 

“Considering the governor’s continued limitations on outdoor events, the Highlands Chamber of Commerce believes it has become necessary to postpone the fireworks scheduled for Labor Day weekend,” McHan said. “We look forward to providing the communities with a fireworks celebration. We will be working with Mayor (Patrick) Taylor and chief (Andrea) Holland to determine the best day and time.”

McHan said postponing the fireworks was in the best interest of all concerned.

“It is with great regret that we postpone the fireworks to a later date but we believe it is in the best interest of our community’s health and safety,” she said. 

The Chamber proposed New Year’s Eve as an alternative date but the board of commissioners said no due to police officers being on vacation for the holidays and not being available. 

“Having fireworks on New Year’s Eve would be an issue for our department due to officers using vacation time over the holidays to be with their families,” Highlands Police Chief Andrea Holland said in a statement. “During major events, like Fourth of July and Halloween, we use every officer on staff those days to ensure public safety, crowd control, traffic control, etc. If we have a large event like fireworks on New Year’s, I would use the same strategy and due to vacations I don’t know if that is even possible.”

Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor asked McHan to look at alternate dates, such as the town Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Saturday, Nov. 28. McHan agreed, and told the board that she would work with Holland and Taylor to find a feasible date for the fireworks.

The move to postpone the Fourth of July fireworks to Labor Day came amid continuing concerns about the public’s safety with large gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In May, the Chamber agreed to a postponement of the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks celebration until Labor Day because of NC Gov.Roy Cooper’s stay at home orders. The state’s reopening plans are currently holding in “phase two.” 

Commissioners originally approved the Chamber’s request to use Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5, as a backup date, citing COVID-19 concerns.

In her statement regarding the fireworks postponement, McHan invited visitors and residents to get ready for exciting Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in Highlands.