Chapel Hill will be introducing a new Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show this year at Southern Community Park in Southern Village.
In years past, the celebration was held at Kenan Memorial Stadium on UNC’s campus, but Town officials cited safety concerns as one of the chief reasons for moving the event to its new location.
Chapel Hill Fire Chief Matt Sullivan said the new artificial turf field at Kenan Stadium was a safety hazard and costly to protect. He said in the last two years the Town spent about $15,000 protecting artificial turf that only covered the outer edges of the field, and fireworks still left scorch marks on the turf.
“Our charge is to protect lives and property,” Sullivan said, “and with the turf and the nature of how fireworks work, the synthetic turf and the fireworks aren’t going to mix.”
More importantly, Sullivan said there were also accidents during the fireworks show itself.
“Last year during the show, there were three errant firework shots that instead of going up, they went sideways and shot towards the crowd,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan said two of the fireworks deflected off the barrier wall on the bottom of Kenan Stadium, and one hit a canopy tent. Luckily, no one was injured. After discussing the incidents with the fireworks vendor, Sullivan said it was decided it would be best to move the show due to the possibility of another errant shot.
“I’m entrusted to make decisions that are in the best interest of our community’s safety, and our citizens’ safety and our visitors’ safety, and I’m not willing to place anyone at that risk,” Sullivan said.
The new location at Southern Community Park places the crowd farther away, Sullivan said, and a treeline will separate attendees from where the fireworks are shot. He said separating the crowd from the where the fireworks are shot was a benefit of hosting at the park.