This year's Fire in the Sky fireworks show at Cosmo-Bethel Park was intended to be visible to about 40,600 households, but residents of the Village of Bedford Walk had a front-row seat to the annual Fourth of July celebration.
The fireworks display started promptly at 9:15 p.m. Saturday at the park, which was chosen because of its elevation of 752 feet, which is higher than any other park in the city. The display reached heights of 300 to 600 feet, making it visible for more than 4 miles, according to city of Columbia. Previous shows in downtown Columbia featured fireworks that rose to only 200 or 300 feet.
At Bedford Walk, directly across the street from Cosmo-Bethel Park, people sat outside on the grass to watch the show. Some lit their own fireworks before the city's display. The 15-minute show brought applause and cheers after the grand finale.
"They were very nice," Sonny Sanders, whose mother lives in the village of Bedford Walk, said of the fireworks. "It was nice this year because I was able to be over at my mom’s place and watch it and not have to go to downtown."
Sanders said he has shot his own fireworks on Independence Day the past few years. Plenty of Columbia residents were doing that this year, as smaller displays with plenty of crackles and booms were visible and audible all over the city.
This was the first year Jason Elwess of Bedford Walk watched Fire in the Sky.
"I’ve actually lived here for 15 years now, and we’ve never been to the Columbia fireworks before because it’s always downtown, and it’s always crowded," Elwess said. "And the fact that they moved it up here this year, you made it where we can come and watch it without being around a bunch of crowds."
Bedford Walk resident Tommy Highbargersaid he expected a great fireworks show.
"The fireworks displays are usually pretty good," he said."
The city celebration was limited to the fireworks display. Other activities were suspended due to public safety and health concerns stemming from the coronavirus.
Residents were encouraged to comply with social distancing when watching the display. Elwess said there was a limit on the number of people who could come to Bedford Walk to watch the show.
"The only way you can be invited here is if you have a family member living here,” Elwess said.
Cosmo-Bethel Park was closed to ensure a safe fallout zone, and all parking areas at the park and neighboring Gentry Middle School and Rock Bridge High School were closed to the public. Many residents gathered in retail parking lots and streets on the south side of town to take in the show.