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Melbourne to host Veterans Day 'drive-in' fireworks show at Melbourne Square mall

Rick Neale
Florida Today

Melbourne officials canceled the city's annual Fourth of July fireworks show, citing coronavirus-related crowding concerns at Front Street Park.

But on Veterans Day, Melbourne will host a redesigned "drive-in" fireworks display at a far-larger venue: the Melbourne Square mall. 

The drive-in show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11. Fireworks will be shot skyward from the northwestern portion of the mall parking lot, behind El Chico Mexican Restaurant and Extended Stay America.

There will be no central gathering area.

“Brevard County has been doing some events to help people get through these times, (like) drive-in movies, I think we’ve got drive-in and drive-thru Halloween events planned throughout the county for different trunk-or-treat events,” City Clerk Kevin McKeown told the Melbourne City Council last week.

“This follows that pattern as a drive-in display. The entire property of the mall would be open for public parking,” McKeown said.

The yellow circle shows the Veterans Day fireworks launch zone near the northwest corner of the Melbourne Square mall.

There are about 4,200 parking spaces available at the Melbourne Square mall, McKeown said. The fireworks exclusion area may close off about 10% of that total, he estimated.

Daylight saving time ends on Nov. 1. The mall will close at 7 p.m. the night of the fireworks show.

“I think this is a great opportunity for not only the mall to get a little bit of publicity as well, but the surrounding businesses. I think in this time, it’s important to get people out and about — and safely," Council Member Julie Sanders said last week.

"With this COVID, everybody’s been kind of hunkered down. And I think this is a great opportunity to get them out — but get them out safely," Sanders said.

"And also, to experience some of our businesses that they might not have experienced before," she said.

More:COVID-19: Melbourne cancels Fourth of July fireworks show, citing social distancing

More:Fine, Melbourne City Council members battle over fireworks celebration

Zambelli Fireworks, which handles Melbourne’s Fourth of July shows, will manage the $20,000 Veterans Day event. The show should last 18 to 20 minutes.

“The vendor described it to us as like a ‘grand finale’ show. So since it’s a smaller area not over the water, they’re going to be smaller shells — but it actually makes for a better show, in their opinion," McKeown told council members.

The mall fireworks show will abut the city of West Melbourne. Officials from both neighboring communities participated in a pre-event planning meeting two weeks ago, and Melbourne and West Melbourne police will help direct traffic along New Haven Avenue, Hibiscus Boulevard and nearby roadways.

But in an Oct. 5 email, West Melbourne City Council Member Daniel Batcheldor said honoring veterans with fireworks — while many suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and physical disabilities — is inappropriate.

“I hope the Melbourne City Council takes this into consideration and refrains from trying to honor the sacrifices of veterans with an event that could cause significant stress to many,” Batcheldor wrote.

Melbourne city employee overtime costs may reach $20,000 to $22,000 for the event, while advertising and temporary signs could cost another $3,095.

“I don’t think there’s any question that we can do this safely. I spend a lot of time with veterans groups, and I know the veterans are really, really excited about the possibility of what Melbourne was going to try to do for Veterans Day,” Melbourne Council Member Tim Thomas said last week.

Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or rneale@floridatoday.com. Twitter: @RickNeale1. To subscribe: https://cm.floridatoday.com/specialoffer/