- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 27, 2004

HAGERSTOWN, Md. — Neighbors of a minor-league ballpark are fuming about the Hagerstown Suns’ plans for three consecutive nights of fireworks during Independence Day weekend.

The city says it can’t stop the displays, despite its ownership of Municipal Stadium, because the Suns’ lease contains no language limiting fireworks shows.

That announcement Tuesday night left neighbors frustrated Wednesday at the prospect of wall-shaking explosions and flurries of fireworks debris on Friday, yesterday and today.

“We’re highly against this,” said James Henson, 75, who has lived across the street from Municipal Stadium for 44 years. “I’ve just been putting up with it and putting up with it and sometimes it gets to where you don’t know what to do.”

He and another neighbor, John McCune, collected 31 signatures on a petition they sent to City Hall and the Suns last week. The letter said the neighbors can tolerate occasional fireworks displays but “three nights in a row are too many for those of us who live close by to endure the deafening noise, the smoke and the debris fallout.”

Mr. McCune, 82, a retired printer, said the displays should be curbed “if for no other reason, for the health and welfare and consideration of the people in the neighborhood — the compassion, so to speak.”

The Suns, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, have balked at trimming the fireworks, which help fill seats. The club has scheduled 13 fireworks nights this season, the same as last year.

“A lot of times when you’re booking groups, they tend to flock toward those dates,” said Will Smith, assistant general manager.

Mr. Smith said Suns general manager Kurt Landes was unavailable Wednesday. Mr. Landes told WHAG-TV on Tuesday that “our fireworks make sense with the patriotic weekend and our fans continue to clamor for more and more fireworks.”

Mayor William M. Breichner said he knows some people find the fireworks irritating, but the city doesn’t regulate fireworks — the Office of the State Fire Marshal does.

“I think it’s a patriotic weekend. There’s fireworks all over the place,” including the city’s display at nearby Fairgrounds Park on July 4, Mr. Breichner said.

Mr. McCune said patriotism wasn’t the issue.

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