Crowds watch fireworks from the Eastern Prom in 2019. Fireworks are back this year but officials hope crowds spread out. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

People searching for a dramatic example of how life in Maine is returning to normal this year can look to Portland’s Eastern Promenade on the Fourth of July.

City officials announced Friday that Portland’s annual Fourth of July fireworks display on the city’s eastern waterfront will resume this year. It was canceled last year because of limits on crowd sizes to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The event will feature only fireworks. None of the related activities that often accompany the city’s celebration, such as vendors, food trucks and music from the Portland Symphony Orchestra, will take place. City officials had announced in April that the PSO’s concert would not be held, and said at the time that they were hoping to hold a fireworks-only event.

The extra activities are being dropped “in an effort to not encourage a mass gathering,” according to the news release announcing the fireworks.

Usually for the fireworks, crowds of thousands gather on the Eastern Promenade’s hillside to get a good close look. But the release said city officials wanted to “remind” people that the fireworks can be seen well from several other locations, including East End Beach, Fort Allen Park, Amethyst Park, Baxter Boulevard, Payson Park, Martin’s Point and Bug Light Park in South Portland.

The city also is exploring the possibility of livestreaming the fireworks so people can watch from home, according to the news release. More details on the fireworks will be released later this month. The event is scheduled for Sunday, July 4, around 9:15 p.m., and the rain date is Monday, July 5.

Last year, with COVID-19 spreading and no vaccines yet in use, the state prohibited large outdoor gatherings. But on May 24, all capacity limits for indoor and outdoor gatherings were lifted. The state also has dropped the mask mandate for nearly everyone, except children 5 or older in school or daycare.

In the past, the city’s free Fourth of July celebration has attracted thousands to the grassy hill on the Eastern Promenade well before dark on July 4. People would set up picnic spots, and buy food and souvenirs from vendors. Casco Bay filled with boats of people watching the fireworks from the water.

The Portland Symphony Orchestra has entertained the crowds before and during the fireworks most years since 2010. The Portland Pops concert was also canceled in 2018 because of a lack of funding, though the rest of the celebration went on as usual. The orchestra returned for the 2019 event.

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