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A dazzling celebration: Fireworks give Amherst light in the darkness of COVID-19

A dazzling celebration: Fireworks give Amherst light in the darkness of COVID-19

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On his first trip out of Norfolk in several months to see friends, Chip Finch was among gatherers who enjoyed fireworks Saturday night from a grassy area near the Amherst traffic circle.

He had just dined at an Amherst restaurant for the first time since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic in the United States in March and was glad to see the show, which began shortly after 9 p.m. June 27. The trip with the added fireworks was a nice getaway, Finch said.

Several said they were pleased to have a distraction from the overall gloom of COVID-19, which along with disrupting everyday life and damaging the economy has put a stop to countless events, social gatherings and county traditions. Vehicles lined the CVS parking lot and other areas near the traffic circle on South Main Street as families and groups, encouraged by Amherst town officials to maintain social distancing protocols, looked up for a patriotic scene, its glow shining on their faces.

“People are happy to get out,” said Karen Cobb, of Amherst. “This was a very nice show.”

Amherst resident Edgar Kinnier also brought a chair for the display, soaking in the sights and sounds with a small group.

“It helps. Anything to get life back” to normalcy, Kinnier said. “Just get it back. They need a whole lot more events considering what’s going on. The people don’t have anything to do, especially the kids.”

Town of Amherst officials had planned to hold a parade and other festivities earlier in the day but canceled those daytime events while keeping the fireworks intact in large part to lift spirits during difficult times.

“The closures and economic effects of COVID-19 has kept us all from being able to enjoy so many of our favorite traditions and gatherings,” town Manager Sara Carter said in an email. “The Town kept the fireworks as a celebration that can be socially distant but still bring joy and togetherness to our community. In the wake of all that 2020 has already seen, this is more important than ever.”

While the traffic circle area drew the most spectators, small pockets of onlookers observed from various locations in town. Ron Tyree, of Amherst, watched the display from his pickup across the street from CVS.

“It helps people feel more family-oriented if they have events like this,” Tyree said. “That’s the way it should be. I’m glad they did this. I’m tickled with it.”

Tyree said he is proud of the Amherst community and especially the Amherst County Sheriff’s Office, complimenting Sheriff E.W. Viar’s work in his second term that kicked off this year.

“It’s a small town. Everyone looks out for each other,” Tyree said. “I’m proud to be a citizen of Amherst County.”

Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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