Kate Nelson of Portland has been an early arrival for Independence Day fireworks at the Eastern Promenade since she was a child, figuring she needed to get there early to snag a prime spot.
But Saturday, she didn’t have to set her alarm early to get there by 9 a.m. and instead arrived to get a front row seat in the early afternoon.
“We usually have two or three meals by now,” she said around 4 p.m. Saturday at her setup, just in front of the orange snow fence at the base of the promenade, the closest you can get to the where the fireworks are set off without annoying police and firefighters.
Nelson wasn’t the only one who wasn’t rushing to the promenade on Saturday. When the fireworks delayed by Friday’s downpours were finally fired off about 9:20 p.m., the half-hour show went without a hitch.
Kevin Cleasby of New Hampshire, who was running a trailer selling french fries, said it was a late-arriving crowd, but business was still good.
Cleasby figured many people held off heading to Munjoy Hill, thinking it would take awhile for the roughly 2 inches of rain that fell overnight to dry off.
“As soon as the sun popped out, the people popped out,” he said.
Cleasby said that if it was ever a good time to have the fireworks delayed, it was this year. The show was originally set for a Friday, and switching it to a Saturday probably wouldn’t inconvenience too many the way a midweek holiday would. He and others also thought the weather, breezy with temperatures in the 70s, was just about ideal.
That was a big contrast to Friday, when the rain started in the afternoon and fell steadily throughout the night before ending shortly after sunrise Saturday.
Organizers of the Stars and Stripes Spectacular celebration took a look at the forecast, with Hurricane Arthur heading up the coast, and decided on Thursday to push the show back a day.
Seth Vigue said Friday’s rain meant he “sat around inside instead of sitting around outside.”
As for the fireworks, he said, “I had no idea they did this.”
Vigue moved to Munjoy Hill from Farmington last fall and said he learned that he was a few blocks away from one of southern Maine’s biggest fireworks displays only a few days ago. He took a walk to check out the scene late Saturday afternoon, then figured he’d head home for a couple of hours and return around sunset – the advantage of living just a few blocks from the Eastern Prom.
The crowd built slowly Saturday, lawn chairs and blankets beginning to dot the hillside late in the afternoon. A few boats arrived then, too, picking out prime spots to drop an anchor and watch the show from the water side.
In the middle of the Eastern Prom’s hillside, Kristen Chalmers of Peaks Island sat alone with three blankets and a couple of lawn chairs, spread out around her. She was going to watch the show with about 10 friends but had volunteered, as she usually did, to set up ahead of time.
This year, that meant spreading a tarp under the blankets to keep everyone dry in case the grass was still wet.
It was also a melancholy holiday for Chalmers because her father, who would help her scout out a location for the gathering and set up the blankets and chairs, died a few weeks ago, and this was her first time heading up the hill without him.
“He loved this,” she said, looking out onto Casco Bay. “This was his favorite.”