“Why reinvent the wheel? Why mess up something that’s not broken? It’s gotten bigger every year,” Hurst said. “People like going out there.”
Hurst spoke with Patch after two posts on Patch—a Local Voices entry from a resident, and a recent election preview regarding tourism—included proposed changes to the decade-old Havre de Grace tradition.
Primarily, the recommendations centered around moving the event into downtown to help spark business at local restaurants and bars.
The Susquehanna Hose Company has been the sole organizer of the duck drop in recent years—in which a silhouette of a duck, lit with hundreds of Christmas lights—is lowered from the volunteer fire company’s ladder truck.
The event has traditionally been held at Havre de Grace Middle School—save for one year, when the duck was suspended on the Huber tower when the ladder truck wasn’t available.
Hurst listed a number of reasons why moving the duck drop downtown to the arts & entertainment district wouldn’t work—essentially: the target audience and reason the event was created.
“We want to keep this a family thing,” Hurst said. “I saw thousands of people down there, cheering, having a good time. Nobody was getting ugly or anything. It was a family thing. That’s the way it is going to stay. It’s not about the businesses downtown. I talked to three businesses down there [Monday] and they said they don’t want the duck drop down there.”
Strategically, the location at the middle school is ideal for the following reasons, Hurst said:
- Fireworks buffer zone: “You’ve got to have a safety zone,” Hurst said. You’ve got to have several thousand square feet of area where nobody can be.” Those areas can’t be near wooded places or buildings, Hurst added.
- Overhead wires: “There are too many wires downtown to put a 100-foot ladder truck up in the air. Not only the ladder, but we have tether lines tied to the duck.” The roof of the middle school is staffed by SHCO volunteers, and used to help secure those tether lines, Hurst said.
- Parking: “A lot of people come and sit in their cars to watch the duck drop," Hurst said. "Nobody can do that downtown, pull up with their kids and watch the duck drop. There’s no parking downtown as it is.”
All fireworks permits—both for the duck drop and the Fourth of July—are signed by Hurst.
Hurst said the recommendation of using a barge to shoot off the fireworks has its faults—primarily with weather. He said if fireworks were to be set up on a barge on the Susquehanna River, it would require a morning set up with fireworks experts on the barge for the entire day.
“They would have to be on the river all day,” Hurst said, before adding that the current duck drop set-up allows for those specialists to stay in a heated firehouse with a food spread before the event.
Hurst added that a DJ—locally-based Jeff Thompson—has agreed to provide entertainment on Dec. 31.
"We’ve contacted the high school band to come out, and we’ll have hot chocolate and coffee out there," Hurst said. "But those things have been in the works for the last six months."
Hurst said the volunteers that have run the duck drop for years have been upset by the recent proposed changes to the event.
“We have guys who take months and months of their time, cutting the letters, making the letters, making the duck and making sure the lights work,” he said. “The Hose Company has always dropped the duck.”
Hurst wondered if those who propose a change to the duck drop have even attended the event.
“I cannot fathom anybody who has been out there to see what goes on could want to do anything else. That’s why I know they haven’t been out there to see it,” he said. “We’re here for Havre de Grace. [The Hose Comany is] not here to draw attention. That’s what the fire company does it for: the people of Havre de Grace. We don’t care to make it a tourist attraction. It’s for us.”
TELL US: Do you agree with Hurst's stance? Or should Havre de Grace make more of an effort to increase tourism with the duck drop? Leave a comment.