By Carol Stiffler
In a year when most things have felt strange, one thing is the same: In Curtis, there will be fireworks for the Fourth of July.
And a parade. And the Lions chicken dinner.
The Curtis Area Chamber of Commerce voted on May 27 to move forward with the village’s annual Independence Day celebration, which is scheduled for Sunday, July 5.
“It was a unanimous vote by the Chamber of Commerce board that we do not want to miss an opportunity to celebrate our country’s independence,” said Mary Gowan, who is chairing the event with her husband, John. The theme of the parade is “United We Stand”.
In Newberry, the Kiwanis Club will host the parade again, though the route will be elongated and people will be encouraged to watch from in or around their vehicles. The theme of the Newberry parade is “Let Freedom Ring”.
“Things are still going to be uncertain,” said Sarah Freeman, secretary and past president of the Newberry Kiwanis Club. “We’re going to say no candy, no handouts. The politicians will have to just wave and smile.”
There should be no crowds of people, Freeman said, so social distancing measures can stay in place.
In Curtis, the Gowans are hopeful that the coronavirus pandemic will continue to decline as warm temperatures prevail. They will also ask parade goers to use “common sense” and practice social distancing as much as possible.
To make the parade crowd less dense, the parade route will be modified to extend beyond its usual stopping point at the top of the hill and will proceed past the elementary school before turning around. In addition to hand washing stations near the port-a-potties, new hand sanitizing stations will be on site, and most vendors have added hand sanitizer to their booths, Mary said. And there will be no inside events whatsoever. There will be no restrictions or changes for the fireworks.
“I think people are going to understand,” Mary Gowan said. “There’s so many people that understand right now what they need to do to protect themselves and each other. And I think that will just flow through an evening event.”
The Gowans understand that there will be a mixed reaction to the announcement. Some people will be thrilled, others will be concerned the parade will cause a local surge in coronavirus cases. But with the unanimous support of the chamber board, and overwhelming enthusiasm from vendors, Curtis and the Gowans will continue with plans for the event.
“We will follow any guidelines from the state,” Mary Gowan said. “And we will certainly use common sense that way, too. If it looks like it’s getting out of hand again, we would make a common sense call.”
Similarly, if the state says public gatherings of this sort aren’t allowed, the chamber board will have to vote to cancel it this year.
Many summer events across the state are already canceled, like the famous Cherry Festival in Traverse City (July 4-11) and the North American International Auto Show in Detroit (June 6-20).
The Curtis event will abide by the rules of Michigan’s Festivals and Events, the Gowans said, and they are hoping to draw a decent crowd.
“We almost anticipate more local folks than tourists this year,” Mary Gowan said. “Which would be very pleasant for us to offer this event for our local community.”
But people have a choice.
“If they don’t feel comfortable, we certainly want them to pass on this event,” she said. “If they want to celebrate with us, we certainly welcome them.”