The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is returning this year — but not on the Esplanade

"We decided that it just wasn’t advisable to squeeze what is normally a 10-month planning period into a five-week window."

The 2019 Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular over the Charles River from the roof of Boston University Questrom School of Business. Matthew Lee / The Boston Globe

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular will be back, but it’s going to look significantly different.

After calling off the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra announced Friday that this year’s Boston Pops July Spectacular concert will take place at the Tanglewood music venue in western Massachusetts and be broadcast live on Bloomberg TV and WHDH.

The fireworks finale will still take place in Boston, but from the Boston Common instead of from the Charles River.

There will be no fireworks at the Tanglewood concert, nor concert stream or sound on the Common. BSO officials say the plan to bring the concert back to the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Esplanade in 2022.


The decision this year to split up the two core aspects of the beloved event — which typically draws hundred of thousands of people to the banks of the Charles River — came after state officials lifted nearly all COVID-19 restrictions months sooner than anticipated on May 29, following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance saying the vaccinated individuals could safely resume normal activities.

However, the July 4 concert and fireworks usually require a nearly 10-month planning process involving multiple government agencies and private organizations.

“Though health concerns related to the pandemic have abated over the last few weeks, after careful consideration we determined there wasn’t enough time to organize the many forces needed to safely return to the Esplanade and present what is considered one of the largest concert events in the world,” Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart said in a statement.

“We decided that it just wasn’t advisable to squeeze what is normally a 10-month planning period into a five-week window,” Lockhart added.

The concert at Tanglewood — the first in-person performance at the Berkshires music venue since it closed due to the pandemic last summer — will have an audience capped at 9,000, or 50 percent capacity.


Free tickets will become available on the BSO’s website on first-come, first-served basis — with a four-ticket per household limit — on June 21 at 10 a.m.

Tanglewood’s Koussevitzky Music Shed, photographed in 2018. Courtesy of BSO

“We are thrilled that this special event will launch Tanglewood’s reopening and that we will have a chance to show Boston Pops fans across the country the great beauty and appeal of one of America’s most beloved summer music festivals,” Lockhart said, encouraging fans to “tune into Bloomberg or Channel 7 to take in the sights and sounds of a July 4 program designed to celebrate a return to community life.”

Last year, the live concert performance was replaced by a pre-broadcast event and the fireworks show was canceled completely in order to avoid drawing large gatherings of people to the banks of the Charles River.

“While the celebration may look different this year, it will still be a truly special way for all residents to celebrate the Fourth of July,” Gov. Charlie Baker said.

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