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Mayor hopeful Independence Day fireworks display can take off

The Dunkirk Independence Day fireworks are always “up in the air.”

But because of COVID-19, this year they are in the figurative sense, too.

Responding to speculation in the community that the 2021 edition was off, Dunkirk Mayor Willie Rosas said Friday that plans are still in place to hold them July 4. However, he acknowledged that New York state COVID-19 restrictions related to large gatherings will have the final say.

“We are planning on hosting our annual fireworks display as long as (the state) lifts the restrictions,” Rosas said. “That will be the main reason we cancel it. Obviously if current restrictions are not lifted we cannot have the event.”

“My feelings are the restrictions will be lifted so we could have the event,” the mayor added.

The fireworks display, canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, attracts thousands to the Dunkirk waterfront many years. A prime area for viewing them, Lakefront Boulevard between the Steger high-rise apartments and Wright Park, is set to fully reopen in the next week or so for the first time since a October 2019 storm heavily damaged the lake wall.

There is still guidance and restrictions from the state on public gatherings, and it was updated May 19. Any outdoor event of 500 or more people is considered a “large-scale event.”

At such events, proof of vaccination against COVID-19 is not required — however, unvaccinated people are supposed to sit in separate areas from the vaccinated, and stay six feet apart from one another. There are no restrictions on seating for the vaccinated — however, they have to prove they were vaccinated before they can sit in the vaccinated area.

Dunkirk’s fireworks have not had assigned seating in the past, and there don’t appear to be any plans in place for that this year.

The Common Council made a $30,000 contract with a fireworks provider in May. Half of the payment was due 30 days ahead as a deposit, the other half is due when the fireworks are complete. Councilman-at-large Paul VanDenVouver said at the time that the city would get its deposit back if the event was canceled due to COVID-19 issues.

There are positive trends on COVID-19 infections in the state and in the region. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the statewide single-day COVID-19 positivity rate dropped to 0.44% Wednesday and the seven-day average dropped to 0.60%, both record lows. Additionally, hospitalizations statewide fell below 1,000 for the first time since Oct. 21.

In Western New York, the seven-day average percentage of positive tests was 1 percent or lower on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

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