For the first time in at least two decades, the skies above Cherry Hill will be silent on July 4.
The township made the decision to cancel its annual July 4 fireworks celebration. The decision was made primarily for public safety concerns, according to township director of communications Bridget Palmer.
“It’s not a decision we came to overnight,” she said. “It’s a discussion that floated around the last couple of years as the crowds grew.”
The fireworks were held at the Cherry Hill High School West football stadium. The area around the stadium consists of a number of residential neighborhoods. Palmer said over the last few years, the crowd has grown larger as other towns have canceled their fireworks. She estimated the Cherry Hill fireworks have drawn between 5,000 and 7,000 people.
With Cherry Hill West’s stadium only having one entrance and exit and limited parking, it has made for a gridlock situation.
“We really were not confident to quickly and effectively respond to an emergency,” Palmer said. “Anytime you have that concentration of people in a limited amount of space, there is the possibility that something could go wrong.”
The decision came after numerous meetings among township officials, the mayor’s office, the police department and emergency personnel. Alternate locations were explored, but everyone agreed the harm outweighed the benefits.
Safety issues were not just limited to those attending the show at Cherry Hill West. Palmer said the police were concerned about people in recent years watching the fireworks from the median of Route 70, creating an unsafe situation.
Finances were not a factor in the cancellation. Palmer said private sponsors funded the fireworks, not the taxpayers. If the fireworks were held, it would not be an issue getting sponsors to help hold the event again.
The cancellation of the fireworks was a reason the township expanded its Music Under the Stars schedule and other programs this year. Palmer said the resources previously used for the fireworks are being spread out to the township’s other summer programs.
“When we made the decision to not have fireworks, we realized there was a void to be filled,” she said.
Right now, Cherry Hill does not have any events planned for Independence Day, but Palmer said the township supports smaller traditions put on by individual neighborhoods.