Not happy with the cancellation of Middletown’s Independence Day fireworks, Middletown Mayor Nicole Condrey said she has made it her mission to ensure the city has a fireworks display, calling it a “quality of life issue.”
City officials cancelled the fireworks event on Friday citing coronavirus risks with a mass gathering. Organizers of the Middletown Memorial Day parade also cancelled that event.
On Monday, Team Fastrax, the skydiving team based at Middletown Regional Airport, said it would perform a pyrotechnics show over the city on July 4 as part of their “farewell performance” after disagreements with the city related to the airport.
John Hart II, who is co-owner of Start Skydiving and Start Aviation that are based at the airport, is the team leader. Condrey is a member of the team, which has performed at many venues across the nation and overseas. She formerly worked as Start Skydiving’s general manager.
Last week, a majority of of the Middletown City Council agreed to have the skydiving landing zones moved to the other side of the airport, prompting Hart to file complaints of corruption and other issues to city council and FAA officials. Hart has been in an ongoing dispute with city officials concerning the zones and hangar lease issues
Last July, the city terminated the Fixed Based Operator contract it had with Start Aviation, which the city took over on Jan. 1. He said the new drop zone is unsafe and will not expose any skydivers to land in that area. Hart II said the family-owned skydiving business is considering moving to another airport.
Aside from the pyrotechnic event, Condrey urged the city council in an email sent Monday to find a solution for holding a fireworks display.
“We are asking our citizens and businesses to think creatively every day, and canceling the 4th of July fireworks is about the biggest morale bust I could possibly imagine,” Condrey said. “Middletown and its citizens are craving for its leadership to put something together that makes them proud, gives them hope, and unites them spiritually, not physically.”
Condrey said she spoke with city Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips and provided council with alternatives. Those suggestions included designing the show around higher altitude shots, doing smaller shows simultaneously at three different locations around the city, streaming the fireworks with a broadcaster, preventing people from gathering in a set area and partnering with community members for solutions.
As of Tuesday morning, Middletown Fire Chief Paul Lolli said there were no permits requested or approved for a July 4 fireworks show.
“I will personally not stop with creativity on this one until an option is adopted,” Condrey said. “We cannot cancel life because of this virus. We cannot cancel our pride. We cannot cancel the 4th of July.”
In her email, she encouraged other council members to share their ideas. As of Tuesday morning, Condrey said she has not received a response from her fellow council members.
“When everyone around us cancels the 4th of July celebrations, I want Middletown to proudly say, ‘We are not willing to sacrifice the foundations upon which this nation was built,’” Condrey said.
The Journal-News reached out to council members for their responses. Councilwoman Ami Vitori is supporting the decision to cancel.
“I would like to see us embrace and empower our citizens to observe our nation’s birthday at their homes, share their experiences on social media, and celebrate together but apart,” said Vitori, the wife of a Marine combat veteran.
Councilman Joe Mulligan pointed out the many ways Middletonians demonstrate their patriotism from flying the flag to volunteering in the community.
“Without this group setting, we must assess the value of a fireworks display,” he said. “… We see this American spirit on display in Middletown every day — with or without fireworks.”
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