Committee formed to rekindle O.B. fireworks

After a two-year hiatus, town leaders and others begin planning the popular end-of-summer event.

The fireworks show in 2019. Town leaders are looking to bring the event back after its two year hiatus. — Gabrielle Mannino

After two years of no August fireworks in Oak Bluffs, town leaders put together a committee to spark the event back to life. 

Traditionally the Oak Bluffs Firemen’s Civic Association plans, fundraises, applies for permits, executes, and cleans up the popular end-of-summer event, all with volunteers. But the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with a lack of personnel and financial issues, has canceled the event two years in a row.

Select board members Brian Packish and Ryan Ruley met with members of the Firemen’s Civic Association leadership to discuss how to operate the event going forward.

“It was very clear their membership was willing to play a supportive role through fire safety, EMS, things of that nature, but they recognized that if this is an event that our town wants to continue, it’s an event we’re going to have to do differently than we have in the past,” Packish said.

Packish said this was an Island event, and the first step was to put together an 11-member group that would look at the event, how to put it together, and what it entails.

“I think this is something that could be viable for us, but we have to at least try,” Packish said.

Packish and Ruley both expressed their inability to be a part of the committee due to other commitments. Select board members Gail Barmakian and Emma Green-Beach both volunteered to be the select board representatives on the committee. Other members will likely include Fire Chief Nelson Wirtz, Police Chief Erik Blake, town administrator Deb Potter, at least one member of the Firemen’s Civic Association, a member of the parks department, a member of the Oak Bluffs Association, and members of the community.

Additionally, Packish said the Firemen’s Civic Association has agreed to share all its planning materials, fireworks contacts, and other information to help with the transition. 

Potter said she reached out to Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty to get a ballpark idea of how much a town-sponsored fireworks event costs. Each year, Edgartown puts on a Fourth of July fireworks event, funded by taxpayers. Potter said the Edgartown event costs around $50,000, but Packish said there were other things to take into account, such as volunteer or staff coordination.

Packish stressed the importance of putting together the committee now, as planning for the massive fireworks display typically begins in November.

Ruley said the committee should focus on logistics, and the select board should decide on whether to put an article on the annual town meeting warrant to ask town voters if they would like to fund it.

“I think we love it, we’re proud of it, and it’s an Island event,” Packish said.

In other business, the board asked the new owners of Offshore Ale to return with a revised entertainment license, after hearing testimony from neighbors about their issues with noise.

Several neighbors expressed their concern about the scope of the entertainment license.

Owner William Honeycutt suggested the neighbors get together and meet with Honeycutt and his wife and talk over their concerns, and get to know each other.

The board unanimously approved closing Vineyard Avenue for Halloween trick-or-treating from 4 pm to 8 pm on Oct. 31. Those who would like to donate candy to the popular trick-or-treating spot can contact Guinevere Cramer at 774-563-0550, who volunteered to disperse candy to houses on the street.


  1. No, no, no.

    Last year we were talking about lowering the taxes for year round residents of OB with the residential tax exemption… Whatever happened to that?

    This year we are talking about raising the taxes for fireworks? I don’t think so… do some fundraising instead please.

    • How much does the town get in Sales Taxes from the event?
      How many million arr spent by people who come just because of the fire work?
      Tax money is used to maintain Ocean Park.
      Make it generate return on that investment.

        • Yes!
          The town receives millions in State aid every year from sales taxes, it was the rationale for the sales tax in the first place (cherry sheet funding).
          The Town ‘taxes’ wealth (real estate) and consumption (sales), income will be next.
          130 MA municipalities collect their own Sales Tax (via the State).
          OB chooses not to.

  2. Here is a great idea… have the bored of selectmen come up with ways to save taxpayer money rather than have it go up in flames and smoke! While I understand why Ruley and Packish are so interested in bright flashes and loud noises, that certainly doesn’t mean tax payers should fund it! The folks who cram ocean park for the festivities come from off island, so get the SSA to add another nickel to the embarkation fund… leave the taxpayers alone!!!!!

    • The folks who jam Ocean Park for the festivities come from off Island and other Island towns and jam Oak Bluffs with millions of dollars.
      The tax payers own the SSA.
      Every dollar they spend is tax dollars

  3. Always entertaining to read uninformed comment. The SSA is one of the few transportation systems in the U.S. that is NOT subsidized by tax dollars and therefore funded by fares – one reason the rates are so high. (It did get federal COVID relief funds last year, along with a very long list of other businesses).

    • Gee golly gee Doug, look up embarkation funds and there you will find what the ignorant are talking about. It is a fee added to foot traffic passengers, could be possibly used to fund fireworks…. Instead of raising property taxes.

      • How about using the embarkation fee to lower the Island’s ‘transportation tax’?
        How about the Town paying for the fireworks, that generate millions for the town’s businesses that pay taxes?

  4. The SSA pays no taxes on their facilities or boats.
    The SSA pay no sales taxes.
    The privates do.
    What the privates pay lowers yours.
    The SSA is a monopoly, they can charge what ever is needed to cover their expenses.
    In the end the SSA is the Island’s transportation tax collector.

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