Ocean City Today

Fourth’s faulty finale forces Labor Day fireworks feature

Contractor given chance to make up for abbreviated show during Sept. 3 event
By Katie Tabeling | Jul 20, 2017
File Photo

(July 21, 2017) Making up for fireworks grand finales that fizzled on the Fourth of July, contractor Image Engineering will get a do-over for a Labor Day weekend show with the final Sundaes in the Park event on Sept. 3.

“It’ll be a special show on the same level as our New Year’s Eve fireworks display,” Special Events Superintendent Frank Miller said Tuesday. “We’ll have Separate Ways, a Journey cover band, perform as well. This is an out-of-the box solution and a way to make it up to the visitors that were disappointed by the Fourth of July show.”

The grand finale of this year’s shows at North Division Street and Northside Park failed to launch, cutting the 18-minute programs short by four minutes. During Monday’s session, Councilman Wayne Hartman asked for resolutions to address the disappointing results.

“This week someone in the grocery store mentioned to me the fireworks weren’t what they had in the past,” Hartman said.

Shortly after the show ended, Image Engineering representatives reportedly told special events staff that 4-inch fuse cables were accidentally used instead of 12-inch fuses. As a result, the computer controlling the ignition found air where it was looking for a fuse.

The Fourth of July’s shows were Image Engineering’s first event with Ocean City, as the resort had contracted with American Fireworks of Hudson, Ohio for the last five years. Deals inked with that company were roughly $62,500 per fiscal year.

This year, on Miller’s recommendation, Ocean City switched to Image Engineering for a three-year contract with an option to renew. The contract was for $62,000 per fiscal year, including $50,000 for the Independence Day shows alone. The city has yet to pay half the amount for the holiday show.

“After a lengthy evaluation, I decided Image Engineering was less expensive, and since they were a special effects company, they could make a top-notch presentation,” he said. “It seemed like the right decision to meet and exceed our expectations.”

Miller added that he could not remember American Fireworks experiencing a failure of this magnitude during its five-year run here.

“It’s not unreasonable to have 12 to 20 misfires in a show, but it’s usually not perceived by the audience,” he said. “This time it happened in a big cluster when everyone was anticipating a big show ... no one felt like they got their money’s worth.”

The request for proposals for the fireworks this year, based on past arrangements with American Fireworks, asked for 1,558 shells and 30 multi-shot packages (called “cakes” in fireworks parlance) for the downtown show and 1,566 shells for the uptown show.

Forty-two shells did not fire in the downtown show, and 24 shells failed in the Northside Park event, according to Miller.

Hartman said later that he thought then extra show for Labor Day weekend would mean little to those who were in town for Independence Day.

“People aren’t coming to Ocean City for Labor Day fireworks, they come here for Fourth of July for that reason,” he said. “That’s not going to help the people that weren’t happy with what they saw.”

The Labor Day show was one of three options city officials discussed in the past two weeks, according to Hartman. The other two were two were to cancel the contract or to seek financial compensation, with Hartman preferring the latter course.

“It takes a lot to build up a reputation for fireworks shows, and we’re used to a certain caliber show,” he said. “Perhaps if there’s another issue with the Labor Day show, we should consider the same possibilities.”

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