Stephen and Muriel Csire of Shelton had some of the best seats available to watch the Shelton and Derby fireworks — from lawn chairs on the bridge over the Housatonic River, right between the two cities.
“If you really want to see the fireworks, this is a great place,” Stephen Csire said of the Bridge Street location.
“We’ve sat here the last three years,” Muriel Csire said. “Only a certain amount of people can fit on the bridge.”
They were joined by their daughter and young grandson in watching the pyrotechnic shows, with most of the packed crowd in Shelton being in Veterans Memorial Park (the Riverwalk), where the fireworks were shot off in the part of the park closest to the Route 8 bridge.
After the show Wednesday night, Nicole Simpson of Shelton gave a big thumbs up to her hometown fireworks.
“It was awesome,” Simpson said. “It seemed louder this year — I’m not sure if it’s just that I’m a year older.”
She attended with her son Jim and Aunt Jane.
Starting a tradition
For the Angier family of Shelton, it was their first time at the Shelton fireworks. Ken and Jessica Angier recently moved to Shelton with their two young daughters.
“We hope to start a tradition with the kids,” Jessica Angier said.
P.J. Corbesato and his family — wife Nicole and daughters, Isabella, 2, and Ava, 7 months — have sat on the Derby side in the past. They also recently moved to Shelton, and decided to view the fireworks in their new hometown this year.
“We like it here — there are more people,” Nicole Corbesato said.
The Shelton and Derby fireworks are shot off separately but simultaneously, and depending on where people are sitting, they can watch both displays in the sky at the same time.
Touched by patriotism
Irene Martin has been coming to the fireworks for a long time. She and her daughter Donna, both of Shelton, were lounging on lawn chairs on the hilly Cornell Street, just up from the Shelton Farmers Market building.
“This is my spot,” Donna Martin said. “We come here every here — too many to count now. I love the whole patriotic thing — it’s in my heart.”
Irene Martin also finds the experience touching. “I get tears in my eyes,” she said.
‘It brings the family together’
The Barone family of Shelton are regulars, too. Kevin Barone has been coming since he was a youngster, and was with his children Julian, 5, and Madeline, 2; mom and dad; siblings and other relatives.
“It brings the family together,” Kevin Barone said. “I’ve been coming for 20 years.”
As show time neared, Kevin Gydus, 9, of Shelton said he was ready for the display in the night sky to begin. “I can’t wait for the fireworks — for the explosions,” said Kevin, who was with brother Kyle, 11; mom Faith and his aunt, Jennifer Hurley of Seymour.
For Christine Rassavage of Shelton, the fireworks show was like a reunion. She was hanging out with Gina Ovesny of Shelton and other friends, having just moved back to the area from Virginia.
“I used to go every year when I was here,” Rassavage said. “I’m so excited to see my old friends again.”
Live music and a solemn ceremony
Live entertainment was provided in Shelton’s Veterans Memorial Park before the show by Mia and the Riff, with Shelton resident Mia Fanali on vocals. They sang everything from Neil Diamond to Ike and Tina Turner songs.
Many people danced to the music in front of the stage.
Members of the Youth CONNection Players, a Shelton-based summer theater troupe, also briefly performed.
The fireworks was preceded by a short, solemn ceremony by Shelton Fire Department members to honor the 19 firefighters recently killed battling a wildfire in Arizona. Luminaries were lit as the names of the 19 deceased firefighters were read aloud, followed by a moment of silence.
Then, it was time for the show. “Are you ready?” asked Shelton Parks and Recreation Commission member Dave Zamba from the stage, urging the crowd to indicate their enthusiasm by shouting yes. The audience obliged him.
Up to 10,000 spectators
An estimated 10,000 people watched the fireworks on the Shelton side. They sat on blankets and lawn chairs, and brought picnic meals and patronized food trucks. Kids and adults played with footballs, hula hoops, Frisbees and light-up plastic swords.
They didn’t just sit in Veterans Memorial Park but lined Howe Avenue, Canal Street and nearby streets, and observed from downtown business locations as well.
Donna Hill of Derby was impressed with what she saw, sitting on the Shelton side. “I thought they were great,” Hill said after the show. “Having Shelton and Derby do them at the same time is such a thrill.”
Marie Basel, 88, of Derby also was impressed, having watched from the Shelton side with her husband Louis, 92, and other family members.
“They were fantastic,” Marie Basel said. “It’s such a great opportunity to be able to enjoy something like this at our age.”