An unexpected fireworks display lit up downtown New Orleans. Who was behind it?

A fireworks display over the Mississippi River illuminated downtown New Orleans Wednesday, but few people knew it was coming.

Social media lit up along with the night sky after the fireworks started around 8 p.m., with many residents trying to suss out why the display was taking place and whether they had missed some sort of big announcement. The only notice for the fireworks came in a news release from the Regional Transit Authority earlier in the afternoon noting that ferry service would be delayed for one hour, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Four Seasons New Orleans marketing director Marcia Lowther confirmed the fireworks were the culmination of festivities at the luxury hotel in the former World Trade Center at the base of Canal Street.

“We held a private event for our top travel advisors to celebrate New Orleans,” Lowther said. “The event ended with a fireworks display.”

City Director of Communications Beau Tidwell said Iowa-based fireworks company J&M Displays received permits from the city and the New Orleans Fire Department for the display. The company also received permission from the Coast Guard.

David Spear, Gulf Coast manager for J&M displays, spearheaded the show, which followed a dinner and speeches at the Four Seasons New Orleans.

“It was amazing that it wasn’t publicized,” Spear said. “Nobody knew about it.”

Since 1985, Spear has produced fireworks displays for events in New Orleans including New Year’s Eve, French Quarter Fest and Go 4th on the River — the Independence Day blowout on the Mississippi River in New Orleans ranked among the Top 5 “Must See” fireworks displays in the United States by the American Pyrotechnic Association.

After coronavirus restrictions canceled fireworks displays in 2020, Spear said he was delighted to be back creating fireworks shows downtown, where reflections from the river and reverberations from skyscrapers combine to magnify the pyrotechnic effects.

“Had Will Smith not come to the rescue (by funding the Fourth of July fireworks display this year), nothing would have happened since the previous Fourth of July,” Spear said.

This fireworks show was a step in the right direction, Spear said, and he has high hopes for New Year’s Eve: “Indications are that, yes, fireworks will be back.”

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