It’s taken two years, but the organizers of one of Greater Columbus’ signature events are ready to celebrate its 40th anniversary.
On Friday, the Independence Day celebration and fireworks show Red, White & Boom will be held for the 40th time — an anniversary the event would have reached in 2020 had the pandemic not caused it to be canceled that year and again in 2021.
“We’ve been saying for the last three years that we’re 39 and holding,” said co-executive director Shawn Verhoff. “We’re finally celebrating our 40th, and it’s just great to be back.”
Here is an overview of what to see, how to see it and what’s new at the perennial Independence Day favorite.
Red, White & Boom: The fun starts at 11 a.m.
Although Red, White & Boom is synonymous with its fireworks display, the fun begins far earlier in the day, with most events and activities concentrated around the Scioto riverfront Downtown.
The Boom! Street Festival, boasting more than 100 vendors offering things to snack on or sip, opens at 11 a.m. on Civic Center Drive and Long Street.
Live entertainment begins an hour later, at noon. Two stages will host numerous acts. On the Long Street Stage, The Twylights (noon), Edge of 17 (3 p.m.) and Distorted Silence (9 and 10:20 p.m.) are among those to perform, while the Bicentennial Stage, on Main Street, will host, among others, Joey and Jessica (noon), MegaBeth (3 p.m.) and Radio Tramps (9 and 10:20 p.m.)
The star power doesn’t stop there: Radio personalities from WNCI (97.9 FM) will be on hand starting at 2 p.m. and broadcasters from WCMH-TV (Channel 4), at 4 p.m. Both stations will be broadcasting the event live.
Beginning at 4 p.m, a cannon will be fired throughout the afternoon by members of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Battery A, leading up to the 10 p.m. fireworks.
Red, White & Boom! parade
As the final prelude to the fireworks, a one-mile parade. The parade will step off at 5:30 p.m. from the Main Street bridge, turn north on Front Street and disband at the corner of Front and Spring streets.
When do the fireworks start?
The fireworks show, which is staged entirely from Genoa Park, will begin at 10 p.m.
What’s new this year?
For the first time, Red, White & Boom has partnered with Zambelli Fireworks of Warrendale, Pennsylvania. “They’re the largest (and) oldest fireworks company in the country,” said Verhoff, who acknowledges the anticipation of those who have been waiting for the return of the event after a multi-year layoff.
“With three years to design this show, we’re packing a lot into the 28 minutes,” Verhoff said. “We’ll have as much, if not more, firepower than we’ve ever had.”
Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
The temperature on Friday is projected to be in the low 90s, so with a populated Downtown area, it will be important to stay hydrated. Between the crowds, heat and walking, you’ll want to drink plenty of water throughout the day.
While Red, White & Boom prohibits alcoholic beverages, you are allowed to take a cooler filled with water. Coolers, though, must be labeled with your name and phone number, because unattended coolers may be confiscated by the Columbus police.
Where can I find restrooms?
Restrooms — lots and lots of restrooms — will be scattered throughout the area, including hundreds on Broad and Long streets, and at major intersections. “I think we have over 700 units there for people to use,” Verhoff said.
Restrooms inside Bicentennial Park will be closed Friday.
How safe is Red, White & Boom?
After three years away, some Red, White & Boom-goers might be leery about going to a large Downtown event, but Verhoff said safety is a top priority. “Every city, county, state and federal agency works together to make sure that we have ample coverage throughout the area,” he said. “Every year, we re-evaluate our plan and see what worked and see how we can improve. And, thanks to CPD (Columbus Police Department) and all the agencies, I think people are safer when events are Downtown.”
Take COTA to Red, White & Boom
Speaking of parking spots, it’ll be easier to get around Downtown if you take the bus.
As the website for Red, White & Boom says, this is the Super Bowl for the COTA bus system. COTA will offer rides from the suburbs of Columbus as well from park-and-rides. The adult fare is $4 round trip and $2 for children; kids 4 and younger ride for free.
There is a complete breakdown of the bus routes on the Red, White & Boom transportation website at www.redwhiteandboom.org/transportation.
What about parking?
Verhoff recommends the Columbus Commons and Nationwide Boulevard parking garages. “Anywhere you park for the Crew, Clippers or Blue Jackets games would be a good place to park,” he said. Surface lots on 4th Street are also easily accessible, he added. But be realistic about the time needed to get into and out of the sure-to-be-packed event. “Unfortunately, we’re only as good as our slowest driver,” Verhoff said.
You can get more information at www.redwhiteandboom.org/parking.
If you drive, look out for road closures
Planning ahead for road closures will save you a lot of time and frustration, if you are going Downtown.
Here's what to expect:
Wednesday, June 29 from 9 a.m. through Saturday, July 2
Civic Center Drive from Broad Street to Main Street
Thursday, from 5 p.m. through Saturday at 6 a.m.
Spring Street from Neil Avenue to Marconi Boulevard (on Thursday morning and event morning, one lane will be open for rush hour from 4 to 6 p.m.) Spring Street needs to be open from Neil Avenue to the west until 7 p.m.-ish, which means Neil is open until the same time.
Long Street from Hocking Street to Marconi Boulevard (on Thursday morning and event morning, one lane will open for rush hour from 6 to 9 a.m.) Southbound Neil Avenue will need to be able to make the left on Long Street Friday morning from 6 to 9 a.m.
Marconi Boulevard from Long Street to Broad Street
North curb lane of Broad Street from Cumberland Trail marker to Belle Street
Friday from 2 to 7 p.m. (closed for parade formation)
Main Street from 2nd Street to river
Rich Street from river to McDowell Street
Starling Street from Rich Street to Town Street
Belle Street from Rich Street to Town Street
Lucas from Rich Street to Town Street
Civic Center Drive from Mound Street to Main Street
For the fireworks only, beginning at 5:30 p.m. to midnight
All streets south of Spring Street, north of Mound Street, east of McDowell Street and west of 3rd Street, will be closed.
The full list of road closures, is available at www.redwhiteandboom.org/activities.
Look over the Red, White & Boom policies
It will be important that you go online to read over the Red, White & Boom policies on what you can or can’t bring into the festival.
The full list of policies can be found at www.redwhiteandboom.org/festival-policies.
But it's important to know there are some areas that are prohibited to watch the fireworks. Broad Street Bridge and Coleman’s Point, the grass west of Civic Center Drive, along the river. The Broad Street Bridge will close to pedestrian traffic at 9 p.m.
The use of stakes and posts are not allowed in parks, and attendees are asked not to set up tarps, blankets and personal canopies until July 1.
The following items are prohibited:
Alcohol can be purchased and consumed at the event's beer gardens on Long Street, Civic Center Drive, Main Street, Washington Boulevard and Spring Street.
Missing someone? Don't fret
Five missing children's booths will be set up throughout the Downtown area Friday, opening at 2:30 p.m. They will be located at:
West Long Street at the Norfolk Southern railroad tracks
West Street, south of Marconi Blvd.
West Broad and North Front streets
200 S. Civic Center Drive (in front of the old Columbia Gas building)
Washington Blvd. and West Rich Street, across from COSI.
Officers highly encourage parents to take a photo of what their child is wearing Friday to show officers in the event that their children go missing, as well as to register their child upon arrival and get a wristband that will assist in reuniting the child with their family.
Most important: Have fun!
Although Red, White & Boom is one of many Greater Columbus events to return this year, there’s something special about celebrating the nation’s independence. “I think the community is very excited to come back out and celebrate something,” Verhoff said, “especially our independence and the 4th of July.”
Dispatch reporters Thomas Hanks and Bethany Bruner contributed to this article.
email@example.com, Cameron Teague Robinson CTeagueRob@gannett.com; Twitter: @cj_teague
This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Red, White and Boom! in Columbus: Everything you need to know