Tuesday, July 9, 2013


Did you attend the Goochland fireworks on the Fourth of July? If so, how long did it take you to get home?

Sheriff James L. Agnew estimated that the crowd was 25 to 30 percent larger than last year’s event, overwhelming the county’s road system.

Another source estimated the crowd somewhere north of 15,000. Goochland’s total population is just over 21,000.

Happily, there were no incidents, and everyone was well-behaved. Good thing, because the roads were so clogged that law enforcement and fire-rescue vehicles would not have been able to negotiate though the glut of cars on all roads anywhere near Courthouse Village.

Agnew contended that Goochland roads, especially around Courthouse Village, simply cannot safely handle the number of cars and people that attended the fireworks last Thursday.

The rockets’ red glare stopped about 9:20 p.m. and everyone headed for their vehicle. River Road West was in gridlock from west of the high school to well east of the light at Maidens Road long after the last blast of pyrotechnics. Folks went to their cars, ready to head home but nothing moved for a very long time and then at a snail’s pace.

All over the place, people were making U turns and asking for direction, which further slowed the exodus.

A deputy directing traffic on Route 6 where four lanes melt into two near Manakin reported that westbound traffic there was steady from early evening until after nine. On the up side, business was great for food vendors of all types in Courthouse Village. On the downside, were there porta-potties?

After 10:15, about an hour after the fireworks ended, a steady stream of traffic still flowed from Fairground Road onto Rt. 250 and turned onto Oilville Road, presumably thence to I-64.

The county picked up the tab for deputy overtime. Agnew said that, should the county decide to hold fireworks in Courthouse Village next year, his entire staff would need to be on duty to handle traffic.

What drew the large crowd? Aggressive advertising was probably responsible for attracting the overflow crowd to our fireworks. The display was mentioned on at least one Richmond television station and who knows where else. Perhaps the excessive turnout was the unintended consequence of exuberant and well-meaning staffers who live outside the county publicizing the event without understanding how easily Goochland’s road system can be overloaded.

It would be interesting to know how many county residents whose tax dollars helped fund the display were discouraged or prevented from attending by the deluge of outsiders that glutted our narrow country roads.

Controlling that monster traffic jam with a handful of deputies was a thankless task. Blaming the Sheriff’s Office for the gridlock after the fireworks is like blaming a supermarket cashier for rising food prices.

Clearly, the fireworks turnout was a surprise. It’s hard to predict who will show up for a free event. Following a disappointing turnout a few years ago, the event was not held and resumed only when people complained about its absence.

In spite of lean economic times, Goochland has managed to hold the line on tax rates and still has fireworks. Local businesses have generously chipped in to help defray the cost of the display. If the immediate world is going to come to the county for fireworks, maybe it’s time to rethink the location and figure out what we’re going to do with all those people and cars when they get here.

On the other hand, maybe the traffic was so bad, the folks who drive “out to the country” won’t return next year.

 A sample, in case you were stuck in traffic. 



Anonymous said...

If deputies would direct traffic, this would not be a problem. Plenty of roads to get people out.

S. E. Warwick said...

From the Desk of Ann James:

Sandie, read your blog. I understand that there were 10 deputies on duty....the same as in years past. The part about “ blaming the sheriff’s office for the gridlock after the fireworks is like blaming supermarket cashier for rising prices” causes me concern. There is no way on God’s green earth that anyone can anticipate how many people will attend an event.

In fact, my thinking is that people are so worried about the turn this nation has made that they decided to turn out to show their patriotism to this great nation.

As to the part about aggressive advertising, I have checked on this also and am told that the same people (TV's, other media) were contacted as in years past. I do know that I have in years past, as well as this year, heard the announcement of the 4th of July event on the TV calendar and on Radio WZEZ. I have also heard on these media when the event would be canceled or delayed.

So, these avenues are very useful.

The part about “perhaps the excessive turnout was the unintended consequence of exuberant and well-meaning staffers, who live outside the county, publicized the event without understanding how easily Goochland’s road system can be overloaded.”

This was a low blow and I know you well enough to know that these are not your words. I can bet you I know where that came from and my advice to them would be to get a life because they’re not faultless either.

In my humble opinion, each year the Sheriff’s office should have deputies on standby in case circumstances such as happened this 4th of July occur. Poor planning on their part? Could be. No two years are ever the same.

The employees of this county need to stop the backbiting and get the job done. They are, after all, employees of every one of us who live in this county. We fought Jim Eads because he thought fireworks on the 4th were the silliest thing he had ever heard. We won and we will win this one also.

You will remember that I told you the deputy at Dickenson and Fairground stopped directing traffic as we approached him and he got into his car and didn’t get out while we were in line. You will also remember that the same thing happened at Rt. 6 and Dickenson. Who gave the order for them to get into their cars and stay there instead of directing traffic. Was this intentional? I just have to ask.

This is a great event for the citizens of this county. It is one of the few things that we can all enjoy.

Please feel free to post these comments if you so desire.,


Carol Salmon said...

Everyone upset by the great traffic jam on the 4th of July should take a deep breath and be thankful they don't live in DC or LA where this type of jam is normal every day and every hour. We should also be thankful our County provides this enjoyable fireworks display each year.