Most of us consider viewing fireworks to be the epitome of America’s Independence Day festivities but do you know the history behind why we celebrate in this particular way? Fireworks began in ancient China where the first natural “fireworks” were bamboo stalks that exploded when thrown into fire. The Chinese believed the booms created would keep evil spirits at bay. Later, fireworks made their way to Europe, with the Italians being the first to manufacture them for religious festivals and public entertainment. Early settlers to the “New World” brought their love of fireworks from Europe, and they were part of the very first Independence Day years later – a tradition that continues to this day.
With the 4th of July weekend right around the corner, we’re here to help you make plans to enjoy events planned on the Southside and Peninsula, in the Roanoke Valley, and in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. Fireworks displays will take place on the 4th of July as well as Saturday (July 2nd) and Sunday (July 3rd).
Chesapeake: On July 3rd Chesapeake’s Celebrate Freedom event will take place at Chesapeake City Park; gates open at 7:00 p.m. A concert by the US Fleet Forces Band will be followed by fireworks. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is $5.00.
Norfolk: On July 3rd, the Norfolk Tides will host their Independence Day Fireworks Extravaganza at Harbor Park. Tickets to the game must be purchased but fireworks are included and will start immediately following the game. On July 4th, the City of Norfolk will hold its 39th annual 4th of July Great American Picnic and Fireworks at Town Point Park. This event is free and open to the public, fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m.
Newport News: Gates for Stars in the Sky, Newport News’ fireworks display, will open July 4th at 7 p.m. at Victory Landing Park. Admission and parking are both free.
Portsmouth: A Beach Music party will kick off the festivities at High Street Landing on July 4th. Beach Music starts at 5:00 p.m., patriotic music by the Tidewater Concert Bank will start at 8:00 p.m. and fireworks will light up the sky at 9:30 p.m.
Suffolk: Suffolk’s Stars and Stripes Spectacular will be held on July 4th with a firework show over the Nansemond River at Constant’s Wharf Park and Marina. The park opens at 5:30 p.m. and the firework display begins at 9:00 p.m. There is no parking onsite, but shuttles will run from a few parking sites. For more information click here.
Virginia Beach: There are two options for fireworks displays on July 4th in Virginia Beach – the Stars and Stripes Celebration at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront and the 4th of July Celebration at Mount Trashmore. Both displays begin at 9:30 p.m.
Williamsburg: Lights of Freedom will take place on the Palace Green in Colonial Williamsburg on July 4th at 9:30 p.m. Other events earlier in the day include a reading of the Declaration of Independence as well as a performance by the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums Sr. Corps.
Roanoke and Surrounding
Roanoke: Events will take place throughout the day on July 3rd. Celebrate Independence Day with free fun for the whole family at the Freedom First Festival at Elmwood Park from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Fireworks will take place at River’s Edge Park at 9:30 p.m.
Salem: The Salem Fair Fireworks will take place at the Salem Civic center on July 4th at 9:30 p.m.
Buchanan: A July 4th fireworks display will be held at the Buchanan Community Carnival at 10:00 p.m. For more information visit: https://www.townofbuchanan.com.
Blacksburg: On July 4th, Blacksburg Parks and Recreation will present live music and fireworks at Municipal Park. Music begins at 6:00 p.m. and fireworks will start at 9:30 p.m. A downtown parade is also scheduled for 2:00 p.m.
Get the celebration started early on July 1st! A special edition First Friday Artwalk – the event will offer activities for children and families beginning at 4:00 p.m. and will culminate with fireworks set off from the waterfront at 9:00 p.m. Fireworks can be viewed all along the open water from or from the Museum of the Albemarle’s front Green. Waterfront Park will be closed for the event.
We hope you’ll pick one of these events to attend rather than setting off fireworks on your own given the legal and safety concerns doing so may bring about. In Virginia, it is illegal to possess, use, store, sell, or handle any firework that explodes, rises into the air or travels laterally, or to fire projectiles into the air. Violators in Virginia can be charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor. North Carolina has similar prohibitions in place and anyone violating the state’s firework law may also face misdemeanor charges (including a $500 fine and/or imprisonment of up to six months).
In most instances, fireworks that stay on the ground (e.g., poppers, sparklers, or fountains) are legal in Virginia and North Carolina though they are still generally not advised and there are many safety precautions to follow. These types of fireworks can still injure those using them, however, if you must set off your own (legal!) fireworks this 4th of July, please be certain to keep the following safety tips in mind:
- Purchase only legal fireworks, approved for personal use in your area. Know the laws for your state and municipality.
- Keep a bucket of water nearby to put used fireworks in and a water hose or fire extinguisher handy.
- Clear a level area away from things that can burn to use your fireworks.
- Keep children and pets at a safe distance and do not allow children to light fireworks. Only an adult should light fireworks.
- Always use eye protection.
- Read and follow all directions on fireworks labels.
- Do not use fireworks under the influence of alcohol.
- Only use fireworks outdoors and clean up all debris when finished. Monitor the area for several hours following.
From all of us at Parks Zeigler, have a safe and fun-filled 4th of July.