CAPITAL REGION -- For a lot of people, communities gathering to watch officially approved fireworks is what the Fourth of July is all about, right up there with grilled hot dogs and hanging the American flag.
Most of the popular fireworks displays have been canceled this year, as the nation fights the spread of the coronavirus, and large gatherings of people -- exactly the point of traditional fireworks displays -- are prohibited by executive order from Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The region's best-known annual Fourth of July display -- the Empire State Plaza show in Albany sponsored by Price Chopper/Market 32 -- is canceled.
But someone who really wants to search out a pyrotechnic show can find one within the Capital Region.
The town of Stillwater plans to go ahead with its July 4 display at Brown's Beach on Saratoga Lake, weather permitting. Right now, the forecast looks good. The town will be charging $5 per vehicle to use the Brown's Beach parking lot throughout the day on Saturday, which will be in addition to the beach entrance fee, if people want to use the beach.
The Stillwater Town Board wants those attending to wear face masks and to socially distance, practice good hygiene, and "show respect to those around them." The fireworks are expected to begin around 9:15 to 9:30 p.m., once it is dark enough, but people should plan on arriving early.
"We've been trying to educate people about this, people will need to wear masks and if they don't have one we will give them a mask," said Town Supervisor Ed Kinowski. "We want people to be outside and this brings them outside, but we want them to be educated about [COVID-19], too."
In Schaghticoke, Liberty Ridge Farm will be offering fireworks as part of a paid-admission Fourth of July event, with online ticket sales only.
For those willing to travel up the Northway a little farther, West Mountain in Queensbury will offer a fireworks display from the mountaintop today, even though its usual "Fire on the Mountain Summer Edition" public celebration has been canceled. The West Mountain property will be closed to the public, but the fireworks will be visible, and the idea is that "people can enjoy it from their own yards and homes," according to a website posting.
Farther north in Warren County, a drive-in fireworks display is planned at the Ski Bowl Park on Route 28N in North Creek, sponsored by the town of Johnsburg. The park entrance will open at 8 p.m. Spectators must stay near their vehicles throughout the event, masks should be worn when people leave their vehicles, and the park entrance will be closed once capacity has been reached, town officials said.
But turning back to the heart of the Capital Region, there are still a few parades on Saturday, even if they're coming without the usual trimmings.
The town of Clifton Park has postponed its Fourth of July community celebration, which draws thousands of people, until Labor Day weekend. But there will still be a Fourth of July parade, even if it is one with very 2020 rules.
The parade, which will start at noon at the Shenendehowa schools campus, will proceed to Clifton Commons along Route 146 and Vischer Ferry Road. This year, it will be made up entirely of vehicles, with no marching bands or people walking. People watching along the route are urged to socially distance. For those who don't want to attend, the parade will be live-streamed on the town of Clifton Park's Facebook page.
In Alplaus, the Fire Department will be offering a vehicle parade starting at 11 a.m. Saturday that will tour through the community's streets and neighborhoods, so people can watch from their porches and yards. The public is being discouraged from watching along Alplaus Avenue, and the traditional community celebration after the parade has been canceled.
Elsewhere, New York City has been hosting a series of fireworks demonstrations this week, though not disclosing the location until the last minute, to avoid crowds gathering. That arrangement angers Montgomery County Executive Matthew Ossenfort, who has been rebuffed in efforts to get public fireworks displays officially approved in the Mohawk Valley.
"It’s unfair & hypocritical that our residents are unable to celebrate Independence Day with this long-standing tradition," Ossenfort wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.