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Fireworks return to Jones Beach for July Fourth celebration

Fourth of July Fireworks explode over Jones Beach

Fourth of July Fireworks explode over Jones Beach State Park in Wantagh on Saturday, July 4, 2015. This is the first time Jones Beach has hosted the fireworks show since it was canceled in 2010. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The sky over Jones Beach lit up again Saturday night when Independence Day fireworks returned to the state park, delighting an enormous crowd.

"It's one of the largest shows in the nation," said August Santore Jr., the production manager for Millington, New Jersey-based Garden State Fireworks, which put on the show.

At about 9:35 p.m., the displays rocketed upward from a barge in the Atlantic, south of Jones Beach's Central Mall, set off by Santore from his post on the boardwalk.

Using an encrypted system, he set off a couple of thousand pounds of fireworks. The shells, ranging in diameter from 3 to 10 inches, featured all the colors of the rainbow and a brilliant white. The 30-minute show was accompanied by pop music and patriotic songs.

"We're nearly filled to capacity," which means about 122,000 people, said George Gorman Jr., deputy regional director for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. Attendance leaped 45 minutes before the show, causing the park to stop collecting fees at about 9:10 p.m. to ensure everyone got in on time to see the show.

Those who came said they were thrilled that the fireworks had returned to Jones Beach.

"It was worth the wait," said Rachel Pierre, 32, of Islip.

Ravi Venkat, 42, of Hauppauge, there with his young daughter, said, "We thoroughly enjoyed it."

Russ Sickmen of Bellmore, one of many who had arrived hours early, said in past years he had watched the show from his boat. "I think it's something everyone wants," he said.

Alex Otis of Wantagh and his grown-up daughter, Brittany, who saw her first show at 2 years old, said they have sat in the same spot on the boardwalk every year.

And, he added, "It's safer," referring to returning on the water from the New York City fireworks show, where smaller boats are battered by wakes from larger vessels.

Gorman boasted that New York City's July Fourth celebration might have more firework barges but still can't compete with the Jones Beach show, saying, "It far outshines Macy's because of the sand and beaches," versus standing in crowds on city streets.

The Jones Beach show was halted in 2010 because budget constraints thinned the ranks of park police officers. In the last three years, the state parks office added 105 recruits.

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