Beacon Falls cancels Family Day fireworks

BEACON FALLS — Officials canceled the town’s summer fireworks show after plans to move the annual Family Day event downtown fell through.

Traditionally, Family Day has been held in July with vendors and activities at the Pent Road Recreation Complex leading up to a fireworks show. The day has also included a cardboard boat race and canoeing and kayaking on the pond at Matthies Park.

Family Day was scheduled for Saturday.

In March, officials approved plans to hold the event on North Main Street and shoot off the fireworks from the bridge near the intersection of Lopus and Cold Spring roads, which runs over the train tracks for Metro North Railroad’s Waterbury branch line. Moving the event was intended to alleviate traffic concerns on Pent Road and hold a festival that promotes downtown.

At the time, officials said Metro North approved shooting off the fireworks from the bridge. But, last week, the state Department of Transportation informed officials that they couldn’t shoot the fireworks from the bridge due to its proximity to the tracks and concerns about clearing debris from the tracks, First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

The DOT owns the infrastructure for the railroad and hires Metro North to run the trains.

DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick said the town requested to shoot off fireworks over tracks and that the DOT hold the trains, so officials could enter the right of way to clear any debris.

“This poses a number of issues from both a safety and operation standpoint, and because of that we are inclined to respectfully deny the request,” Nursick said.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chairman Steve Ruhl said officials kind of gambled that the DOT would approve the town’s request, and the backup plan was to hold the event at the recreation complex again.

However, the town is using the recreation complex as a collection point for debris from the tornado in May, and the town can’t host the fireworks there.

Bielik said officials explored a third option of staging the vendors and activities on the St. Michael’s Church green on Maple Avenue and shooting off the fireworks from the ball fields at Laurel Ledge Elementary School.

Ruhl said the logistics of this option didn’t work out. He added that events like the fireworks show take time to plan, and officials didn’t want to hastily put it together without the proper planning.

Bielik said the canoeing and kayaking part of the day will still be held on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Toby’s Pond off of Old Pines Bridge Road. Canoes and kayaks are supplied to residents who want to participate free of charge. The cardboard boat race has been canceled, he said.

As for the fireworks, the town put down a deposit for them that is 50 percent of the cost, or about $4,000, according to Bielik. He said officials are reaching out to the fireworks company, Atlas Pyrotechnics, to ask about using the deposit for next year’s fireworks, which will likely be back on Pent Road.

Bielik commended Ruhl and Parks and Recreation Commission Vice Chairman Bob Egan for their efforts to try to create an event to promote downtown. He said sometimes trying for the home run doesn’t work out but it’s not for a lack of effort.

Ruhl said he’s disappointed the plan to hold the event downtown fell through but understands the DOT’s perspective.

“We really wanted to put on a great event for the community,” Ruhl said.