(The Center Square) – Floridians will celebrate the Fourth of July in customary fashion this weekend, but, for the first time in more than 80 years, they won’t be breaking state law by setting off fireworks.
Lawmakers in March adopted Senate Bill 140, sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Palm Coast, which allows Floridians to shoot fireworks July 4, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
With the state’s COVID-19 surge prompting the cancellation of many parades, civic celebrations and public fireworks displays, AAA and the National Retail Federation (NRF) say more people plan to celebrate Fourth of July at home and, in Florida, are more likely to purchase their own fireworks for entertainment.
“Combine that with the fact that we’ve got Fourth of July falling on a Saturday and most people are going to be off, so we’re worried that it’s going to be an uptick in injuries that we see this year,” Orlando Health Director of Hand & Upper Extremity Surgery Dr. Brett Lewellyn told The Orlando Sentinel.
According to the American Pyrotechnics Association, as many as 80 percent of the holiday fireworks displays in large cities and small towns across the nation have been canceled because of the pandemic.
In Florida, dozens of Fourth of July community events and fireworks shows have been scratched, but there will still be plenty of pyrotechnics this weekend.
The city of Miami and other municipalities are staging “virtual fireworks displays,” but at least 60 other Florida communities will host traditional Independence Day events.
Alachua County, as of Friday, still planned a parade and fireworks show Saturday. Dixie County, Dundee, Eustis, Miami Lakes, Miami Springs, Sebring, Pensacola Beach and Wellington plan public fireworks shows.
There will “drive-in” or “drive-by” displays where viewers in cars listen to synchronized music on radios in Lake City, North Port, Sarasota, and at Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Racing & Poker, Hard Rock Stadium and Collier County Fairgrounds.
Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach plan to stage smaller displays in different areas people can see from their homes.
There will be a demolition derby and fireworks show at Hernando County Fairgrounds on Saturday. Sea World and Legoland plan large-scale fireworks displays all weekend, and Wahoos Stadium in Pensacola will screen "The Sandlot" before a fireworks display.
According to a June NRF survey, only 24 percent of 7,762 people surveyed nationwide said they’d attend a community celebration featuring fireworks, down from 40 percent last year, and only 6 percent said they’d attend a parade, down from 9 percent last year.
About 9 percent planned to travel, down from 12 percent last year, and 24 percent said they won’t celebrate the Fourth of July at all – a 10 percent increase from 2019.
The NRF survey estimated those who will celebrate Fourth of July each will spend $76.49, up from $73.33 last year.
Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley said projected $3-per-capita spending means more people are planning to stay home for the holiday.
The amount of Americans traveling this summer is expected to drop by at least 15 percent, with 97 percent planning to drive to their destinations, AAA forecasts. It will be the first decline in summer travel since 2009.
Orlando, the most popular July 4 holiday destination last year, has dropped to number eight this year, according to AAA.
The American Hotel Lodging Association indicates only 44 percent of Americans plan to take an overnight vacation in 2020 and, of those, only 33 percent plan to travel this July 4th weekend.