A technical issue was the culprit, Howard County officials reported Saturday morning.
Fireworks were advertised to be set off at dusk, and Little Patuxent Parkway was closed after 7:30 p.m. for the display.
However, citizens said they waited, and waited, and there were no fireworks.
"Dear Howard County, I don't think you know what time dusk is. The internet says that it is at 8:36 p.m. For some reason, you think it's 10 p.m..." Bill Russell posted on the Howard County recreation and parks Facebook page.
Some parents said they left because bedtime set in for their children.
"Big delay for Columbia lakefront fireworks. Kids are dozing. Adults are restless. #pleasestart," Joyce Blight of Columbia tweeted at 9:47 p.m.
At 9:15 p.m. on Friday, Councilwoman Courtney Watson reported that the countdown for the fireworks at Lake Kittamaqundi was about to begin. But then there was radio silence.
"It was really difficult on families with small children..." EL wrote on Ellicott City Patch after the event.
Columbia blogger Julia McCready said she had to take her child home. "...I hear the fireworks were great," she wrote. "We headed home after they started because my daughter was exhausted."
Howard County officials said Saturday morning that the problem was technical.
"We do apologize for the delay in the start of the fireworks, which were scheduled for dusk but were pushed back due to a technical issue," Howard County Recreation and Parks posted on Facebook Saturday morning. "We will work to ensure this is corrected for future years."
While many were upset by the delay, others who stayed were wowed by the show when it eventually went on.
"Yay Columbia MD—best fireworks show I have EVER seen!! 30 minutes long and truly spectacular!! Thank you, Howard County!" wrote a Twitter user named Sunny.
Carlos Urtecho of Ellicott City agreed, tweeting at 10:50 p.m.: "Fireworks at Columbia Lakefront were worth the wait!"
Going forward, social media hub HoCoBlogs suggested government officials consider using a unique hashtag for big events to communicate with the public.
There were no tweets from @HoCoGov on July 4; the most recent one as of Saturday afternoon was a reminder about yard waste from Thursday.