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For Newark, a rare Independence Day without fireworks

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Liberty Day

Fireworks explode over the University of Delaware athletic complex in 2018. This year’s event has been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For the first time in recent memory, there will be no fireworks show to celebrate Independence Day in Newark this year.

Due to the pandemic, the city decided in April to cancel the fireworks and the Liberty Day festival at the University of Delaware athletic complex, which have been a summer tradition here since the 1970s.

“It generally draws around 30,000 people, which doesn’t seem responsible at this time,” City Manager Tom Coleman explained in April.

Canceling the event also saved approximately $35,000 in direct costs, plus more in overtime pay for employees.

When it canceled the fireworks, city council tasked the Newark Parks and Recreation Department with devising alternative activities this summer.

One of those activities is a house-decorating tour. Newarkers were encouraged to decorate their houses, and the parks and recreation department produced a map of all the decorated houses and published it as a self-guided tour for spectators to enjoy through July 13.

Those participating include St Thomas's Episcopal Church on South College Avenue and three houses – one on Briar Lane, one on Register Drive and one on Colgate Lane.

The city is also planning a drive-in movie night at the STAR Campus at 8:30 p.m. July 18. "Back to the Future" will be screened on a 40-foot outdoor screen. Admission is $20 per car, and attendance is limited to 50 cars. Register at

Meanwhile, Newarkers thinking of organizing their own fireworks show should be aware that doing so remains illegal in the city.

In 2018, state law was softened to allow ground-based and handheld fireworks to be sold and used in the state with the stipulation that the fireworks can only be used on July 4, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, and the sale of fireworks may only occur 30 days prior to either of those permitted dates.

However, Newark’s city code still bans the sale and use of all fireworks, including sparklers. The fine for violating the city’s fireworks law is $25 to $100, and code dictates that the Newark Police Department should seize all illegally stored fireworks.

Though a city spokeswoman said in 2018 that the city would consider amending the ordinance to match state law, city council has never taken up the issue.

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