Organizers of Duluth’s annual Independence Day celebration had feared forecasted thunderstorms would threaten crowds on Wednesday when they decided to postpone the event for a day.
Instead, they got clear skies and a social media storm.
Multiple weather forecasts on Wednesday morning had predicted that bands of storms were headed for town in the early evening and again at 11 p.m., just as crowds would have been dispersing after fireworks. So organizers made the painful decision to postpone the whole thing for 24 hours.
But then the storms shifted and it turned into one of those beautiful Duluth summer days.
“I hope they feel like idiots for canceling it so early!!” one woman chided on Facebook Wednesday night.
“They jumped the gun way too early on this cancellation. Beautiful night,” wrote another.
Bayfront Festival Park Director Jeff Stark said he spent Thursday morning, before the rescheduled festival, on a mea culpa tour of sorts.
Officials knew they might face criticism for postponing if the weather turned out to be OK, he said, but they also understood there would have been serious questions about their judgment if storms rolled through Wednesday as predicted with an expected crowd of more than 12,000 people at the park as well as many more who line up on city streets to watch fireworks.
They made the call early in the day — around midmorning — so that the more than 20 food vendors and 20 craft vendors would refrain from setting up their tents in the park, and people traveling to town for the festivities could make other plans.
“It really is a destination event and it’s really something we didn’t want to screw up, and we did,” Stark said.
So Stark and others spent part of Thursday asking for forgiveness and understanding.
“You feel bad especially for the folks that have plunked down a bunch of money for hotels,” Stark said. “It turns your stomach a little bit to think of all the people that are affected. … But safety was paramount.”
But some social media commenters told organizers not to sweat the decision and looked on the bright side: More days of celebration.
The postponed event became known as the Fifth Fest.
“We’re trying to have as much fun with it as we can, with the understanding that some people’s days were inconvenienced,” Stark said. “There’s a silver lining, I guess, in the nonexistent clouds.”