While nearby communities hit the pause button on their fireworks shows on July Fourth, Milton continued with its first Rhythm and Booms event.
Up until about five minutes prior to the show, there was doubt it would take place, organizer Derek Henze said.
“I was leaning more toward we had to cancel,” Henze said. “We were looking at a small pocket that would potentially clear up right in the Milton location.”
That pocket, which he referred to as “a window of opportunity,” opened at 8:45 p.m., about 15 minutes prior to when the show was originally scheduled.
Within 45 minutes of when the show started, a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued for southern Rock County, prompting concerns on the Milton 4th of July Facebook page of the event continuing. But the warning area was south of Janesville. There was also a warning for southwestern Walworth County, but with the warning south and east of Milton, Henze further believed there was a window to launch the fireworks show.
Henze and Milton Police Chief Scott Marquardt monitored the National Weather Service radar.
Henze said having the option to start the show early was one of the “safety mechanisms” in place to make sure spectators would not be in the rain or in danger of lightning strikes.
The city’s Fourth of July parade was canceled because of storms that moved in earlier in the day.
“Lots of decisions had to be made with sometimes limited and quickly shifting information – weather and public safety,” Marquardt said. “We’ll be reviewing the way we made decisions we made yesterday on both events and try to put together better concrete objectives and metrics that we can use in the future so we’re not guessing and flying by the seats of our pants at times.”
Had the show been called off Monday, Tuesday was the scheduled rain date, but Henze said there was concern there would be similar weather Tuesday night and that organizers would be stuck in the same situation again.
Henze said he appreciated the importance of getting the show in because of it being the first ever Rhythm and Booms for Milton, but having the event take place for the sake of having it wasn’t the top priority.
“It was definitely not the glory of having a fireworks show because of the weather, but safety was the primary concern,” Henze said.
Henze worked with Dodge County-based Spectrum Pyrotechnics for the show.
“(Spectrum Pyrotechnics) took a lot of risk, and they always have the authority to cancel it. We take their opinion seriously, and if they don’t want to do it, we will follow their lead,” Henze said.
Near the end of the show, many flocked to their cars to take refuge from the rain, but, Henze said, there was “very little” that fell.
“At the end there was a light sprinkle but it was beautiful with how the clouds just opened up and you could see a little bit of the sun, and it provided a spectacular background for the fireworks itself,” Henze said.