The long Independence Day weekend started with a bang Friday night as the annual fireworks spectacular over the town’s beaches capped a picture-perfect summer day along the shoreline.

This year, the fireworks display was moved a head by a day from the traditional July 4 holiday, as town officials sought to contain the crowd size and resultant traffic jams in the beach neighborhoods. The idea was that the crush would be more controlled since several other nearby communities also planned their fireworks shows Friday, including neighboring Westport.

Before the pyrotechnics, thousands gathered along Fairfield’s five beaches to enjoy swimming, picnics and and games under sunny summer skies.

At precisely 9:15 p.m., as dusky skies had turned to night, the first fireworks were launched from a barge off Jennings Beach. A flotilla of boaters assembled on the Sound for an up-close perspective on the bombs bursting in air.