Soldiers stand guard before a concert at the Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in Boston, Thursday, July 3, 2014. The annual Boston Pops Fourth of July concert was moved up a day because of potential heavy rain ahead of Hurricane Arthur. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
BOSTON — With the season’s first hurricane bearing down on New England, Boston hosted the Boston Pops Fourth of July outdoor concert and fireworks show tonight, a night earlier than planned.
The event, which airs nationally and draws more than half a million visitors to the city, was moved a day earlier when it became clear that the region would feel the brunt of Hurricane Arthur on Independence Day.
The severe weather has prompted the cancellation of July 4th events in coastal Massachusetts, particularly in the summer retreats of Cape Cod and the islands south of Boston, where a tropical storm warning has been issued.
Weather for the rest of the holiday weekend, however, promises to be seasonably sunny and hot. Local officials are warning beachgoers, though, about the likelihood for high waves and strong undertow.
But on Boston’s Esplanade along the Charles River this evening, there were few hints of the gathering storm.
Temperatures were in the high 80s and there were few clouds in sight.
Sailboats glided in the waters nearby.
Concertgoers, some of whom had lined up outside the park as early as noon, were more concerned with heat and strong sun.
“We could use a few clouds, actually,” said Marek Morawski, a Connecticut resident who secured a spot for him and his wife, Dee, under a row of shady trees and with a clear view of the concert hatch shell.
A number of concertgoers said they were visiting Boston for the first time and had planned their trip specifically to catch the concert.
“We watch it on the TV every year, so we figured we’d see it in person,” said Mercedes Przecioski, a Phoenix, Arizona, resident who arrived in Boston early Thursday morning with her husband, Steve, and daughter, Vanessa.
“Coming from Phoenix, we’re happy for rain,” said Przecioski. “We haven’t seen it in six months.”
Orlando, Florida, residents Bob and Diane Rindfuss said changing the day for the concert and fireworks show meant they’d have more time to tour the city.
“Now we got a day to do something nice,” said Bob Rindfuss. “But inside. Maybe a museum or the aquarium. We haven’t thought that far.”
Concertgoers who staked out an early seat in the park were treated to the sounds of the Beach Boys and Broadway star Megan Hilty as they ran through their soundcheck Thursday afternoon.
Typically, the Boston Pops holds a rehearsal show the day before the actual concert that draws thousands to the Esplanade.
Tonight’s headliners will be joined by the Boston Children’s Chorus and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra
The concert has been delayed in the past because of threatening weather during a performance, and the fireworks have been rescheduled.
Moisture bands ahead of the storm are expected to bring rain and thunderstorms to the state, with gusty winds and possible storm surge on Cape Cod and Nantucket.
The National Weather Service said sustained winds of 35 to 45 mph are expected to begin early Friday evening, with gusts up to 50 mph, as Arthur passes between 70 and 80 miles south of Nantucket Friday night. A storm surge up to 2 feet is possible with some coastal erosion.
“I think that for the most part it’s another storm, but you never know what can happen. Being the Fourth of July weekend, things seems to be magnified,” said Rocky Fox, who owns the Chicken Box nightclub on Nantucket. “People like storms and they like to be in a bar when they hit. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it.”
He said people there are used to being prepared. “Mother Nature was upset with us this winter, and she may not be through. We’re on an island. You can never tell what it’s going to do. You prepare for the worst and hope for the best.”