Saving the Shelter Island Fireworks show: An Island Effort

The 2015 Shelter Island fireworks display. (Credit: Bev Walz, file photo)

Way back in 1957, the Soviet Union launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik 1, into space, Elvis Presley bought a mansion in Memphis and named it Graceland, and Shelter Island residents were enjoying the first fireworks show in the skies over the dark blue of the nighttime bay.

In the years that have followed, those fireworks have become an annual tradition, and this year’s 60th annual Shelter Island Fireworks Show will be Saturday, July 8 at Crescent Beach.

But what Islanders and off-Islanders alike may not realize is that this is a tradition that almost disappeared.

In early 2015, after the Shelter Island Chamber of Commerce announced it would no longer host or participate in the fireworks show, members of what is now the board of Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc. created a GoFundMe page and raised over $25,000 dollars in just a few months so the show could go on.

The organization is now an independent non-profit, relying completely on donations to sustain this beloved annual ritual. In a recent conversation with the Reporter, Carla Cadzin, vice president of the board of Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc. recalled the speed with which the decision was made to fundraise for the 2015 show, as well as the rapidity with which the subsequent donations poured in.

“It was really a Cinderella story,” she said.

In order to save and maintain the fairy tale night, however, members of the group felt it was important that new traditions be created. The organization now puts together programming and events both before and after the fireworks show in order to bring in the needed funds.

Though this year’s Endless Cocktail Party at Sunset Beach, which took place on June 24, has already passed, there are two more events coming up that will bookend the fireworks. The first, will be a fireworks pre-party at The Shipwreck bar at SALT on Friday, July 7 from 6 to 11 p.m.

Attendees will be able to enjoy music by The Realm, participate in raffles and toast the fireworks with friends. Then, following the fireworks on Saturday, July 8, the Tavern will host a post-fireworks party until 2 a.m.

With the fireworks in its 60th year, one thing that’s changed is innovation, and new digital forms of outreach are expanding the reach of the beloved ritual. In addition to word of mouth and the mailing of postcards, Shelter Island Fireworks has become very active on social media with members starting Facebook and Instagram profiles in addition to its initial GoFundMe campaign. The result of these efforts is that word has reached off-Island residents as well, and the show now welcomes many spectators from Sag Harbor.

One thing that hasn’t changed in six decades is Shelter Island’s partnership with Fireworks by Grucci. The company is back again this year to light up the night sky, and to celebrate this milestone, Grucci is promising to create a “bigger and better” finale for spectators on Shelter Island.

Fireworks by Grucci was founded in 1850 by the Grucci family, which has been nicknamed “America’s First Family of Fireworks.” The sixth-generation owned and operated family company is now an international entity and well-renowned for its exciting shows and personalized styles. In addition to the annual Shelter Island show, Grucci has provided its services for eight presidential inaugurations, as well as other high-profile events in New York City, Las Vegas and abroad.

The board of Shelter Island Fireworks additionally partners with several local businesses to fundraise, such as SALT for parties and Venture Out Paddleboard for T-shirts. Ms. Cadzin noted these local businesses show an enthusiasm for the tradition in their willingness to help, providing venues and services.

“All of these organizations come together for the fireworks,” she said.

On fireworks day, from noon into the evening, representatives of the Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc. will host a “Fireworks Headquarters” on Crescent Beach where spectators can meet them and learn more about the organization.

When asked what makes her and the board members so passionate about the fireworks, Ms. Cadzin replied, “It brings everybody and anybody together, old friends and new.”

The effort to save the fireworks reveals Islanders’ love of tradition, as well as their ability to come together for a common cause. The continuation of the fireworks would not be possible without the entire community and is a sentiment often reiterated by the board of Shelter Island Fireworks.

The 60th annual Shelter Island Fireworks Show is Saturday, July 8 at 9 p.m. at Crescent Beach. The rain date is Sunday, July 9.

To purchase tickets to the pre and post fireworks events or make a donation, visit shelterislandfireworks.com or send donations by mail to:

Shelter Island Fireworks, Inc.
PO Box 452
Shelter Island, NY 11964

One Comment

  • I remember as a child in the 50’s and 60’s seeing the fireworks at the town beach! Always a great time! Glad it’s still going on!