Continued concerns about distancing for COVID-19 prompted two local cities to host Independence Day fireworks shows without the usual accompanying festivals while a third will postpone its annual parade and picnic for a second consecutive year.
Covington, Oxford and Porterdale have finalized plans for celebrating the patriotic holiday, officials said. The plans included:
• PORTERDALE: Porterdale is set to host a July 3 fireworks show in the city’s historic downtown area after canceling it last year due to COVID-19.
City officials will begin the event around dusk and only feature a fireworks show of about 15 minutes over the historic downtown area, said Police Chief Jason Cripps.
No vendors or festivals are planned because of safety concerns around the pandemic, Cripps said. Attendees are encouraged to buy refreshments from city businesses, he said.
No specific designated parking areas and no street closings are planned, he said.
“As long as they park in a legal manner, they’ll be fine,” Cripps said.
He said parking was on a first-come, first served basis. Attendees can park on the side of the streets leading into downtown. The railroad depot near the Yellow River also is a good spot but the riverside park does not offer a clear view, Cripps said.
“Have a little bit of common sense and a little bit of empathy for the people who live here,” Cripps said.
• OXFORD: The city of Oxford will not host an Independence Day parade for a second consecutive year after officials were forced to decide by January whether the pandemic would have subsided enough by July 4 to allow the event to safely proceed.
City Manager Matt Pepper said the city council “at that point was just not comfortable” in late January with allowing parade participants and attendees to gather without social distancing needed for safety.
He said council members did not know enough about the COVID-19 vaccine’s effectiveness to begin the myriad preparations needed for the event by the dates required to organize it.
“It’s the kind of event where it can’t be a ‘game time decision,’” Pepper said.
Officials needed months before the event for such tasks as contacting and registering vendors and securing needed permits, including one from GDOT, to allow the use of Georgia Hwy. 81, he said.
According to minutes from the Oxford City Council’s Jan. 25 work session, members discussed the possibility of a “socially distanced” parade.
Laura McCanless “liked the idea of a socially distanced picnic because it would allow the City to ‘walk the walk,’ in terms of the need to socially distance in public,” according to the meeting minutes.
“She does not believe the city can conscientiously have a parade that is effectively distanced. She does not have faith that everyone will be vaccinated by then.”
Pepper said the parade usually includes such typical Independence Day parade features as floats, Boy Scout troops and political candidates.
An accompanying picnic often attracts 300 to 400 people and features live music and other events at the Old Church — where the parade ends, Pepper said.
Oxford Lions Club members traditionally provide manpower and “woman power” for the event, one member said.
“Hopefully, next year,” Pepper said.
• COVINGTON: In April, the Covington City Council opted to host the city’s annual Independence Day event at its traditional Town Square location on July 4 at dusk rather than an alternate site.
Officials considered the show at the Covington Town Center site at Alcovy and City Pond roads before settling on the Square but without the usual festival and food vendors.
A nonprofit agency, Friends of Covington Fireworks Inc., organizes the show annually. Chief organizer Robert Foxworth said a $65,000 show was planned.
A GoFundMe appeal for donations for the show stated, “Covington, Georgia, is a special community that aspires to represent everything good that America stands for." The page can be accessed at https://www.gofundme.com/f/friends-of-covington-fireworks-2021.
“Last year’s show was cancelled due to COVID and this past year has been tough on everyone, but together we can show the world that we're not beat; our spirit and humanity will make us an even greater nation!
“We feel fortunate to help give back and hope that you too will be inspired by Robert’s faithful dedication and patriotism. Please join us in helping the Friends of Covington Fireworks raise the money needed to reignite the American dream and inspire everyone... especially all the children looking forward to experiencing live fireworks this July 4th.”
Publisher and Editor Taylor Beck contributed to this report.