NORWALK, Conn. – The question marks and stars exploding over one of Norwalk's islands were dwarfed by Norwalk's own exploding lights Tuesday night, a fireworks display enjoyed by thousands of people.
"Awesome, longer than usual," Tracy Lane, a lifelong Norwalker, said of the 2012 edition of the Independence Day fireworks celebration at Calf Pasture Beach. Lane figures she has seen about 40 fireworks displays, always in Norwalk. "It's something to see and really enjoy," she said.
Children in the mid-beach area briefly added their own musical accompaniment to the more than 40-minute display, a harmonious chord coinciding with the explosions. A young boy yelled, "That's cool," and a man said, "I love fireworks."
Fireworks from Westport were visible in the distance, exploding over a forest-covered island not far from shore. Fairfield's fireworks were also visible, according to state Sen. Bob Duff, who tweeted that Norwalk's finale was longer than the one offered by Westport.
Then there was the challenge of getting home. It was taking longer than usual, according to two Norwalk seniors, who wondered at about 11 p.m. why the line of cars was not moving.
One Norwalk police officer said the crowd was bigger than usual, but Sgt. James Boff thought not. Mike Mocciae, director of the Department of Recreation and Parks, at first said the crowd was average but then amended his comment.
"It's the biggest weekday fireworks we've had," he said. "It's good weather, and they've got community spirit. Most, if not all, of these people are residents. It's a good community event."
Up to 20,000 people were at the beach, Mocciae said. The fireworks display cost the city $42,000; the total including police protection was $70,000. "For a town of 85,000 people, that's pretty good," he said.
It usually takes until midnight for the traffic to clear at the beach, Mocciae said, although 22 years ago it took until 12:30 a.m.
All was calm on the beach. "I haven't seen so many families out for this event in many years," Mocciae said at about 11:15 p.m. "And they're still here, which is nice to see."