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Evanston’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks, signature events of the City’s summer season, will not go forward this year because of social distancing concerns, organizers decided last week.
Members of the 4th of July Association, a non-profit, all-volunteer group that puts on the celebration, voted at a meeting held on Zoom Tuesday, April 28, to cancel all their Independence Day activities for 2020.
With throngs of people stacked up along the Central Street parade route, as well as thousands more attending the lakefront fireworks in the evening, the group decided, “it would have been impossible to enforce,” said Tracy Alden, the Association president, last week.
Mr. Alden said members of the Association also had to take into account contracts with performers, with some inquiring about the day’s status. Also figuring in was the City of Evanston’s own financial status. City officials recently announced they are looking at layoffs and other severe measures in the face of a budget shortfall that could climb to as high as $20 million because of the Coronavirus response.
The 4th of July Association foots the bill for the actual production of the day’s full line of sports activities, parade, twilight band concert and fireworks. However, the City provides support in a host of public service areas, noted Mr. Alden, providing staffing from police, fire, sanitation and parks and recreation to support the activities.
In light of the situation, members of the Association (evanston4th.org) which depends on private contributions, voted instead to contribute $10,000 from their reserve fund to the Evanston Community Foundation’s Rapid Response Fund, established to support local nonprofits and those most vulnerable because of Covid-19.
This year’s Independence Day celebration would been the 99th. The Evanston 4th of July Association’s history goes back to 1921, when a group, the North End Mothers Club, formed the north Evanston 4th of July Association to provide a day of safe constructive activities after a child had been injured while setting off fireworks.
Though reluctantly moving to cancel this year’s physical celebration, Association members are looking at other ways to celebrate the day, said Mr. Alden and trustee emeritus Bruce Baumberger.
“It’s going to be in a different form,” said Mr. Baumberger. “We have our committees discussing ideas of what we can do. We have wonderful archives of past parades, videos, lots of still photos, so we could very well do possibly a Facebook Live virtual parade. There are various ways to involve the community and those are ideas being tossed around at this point, and possibly in the next few weeks they’ll begin to take shape.”
Another bright spot in the face of adversity “is that we have all of this year to ramp up for the Centennial year,” Mr. Baumberger said. “The resources that would be dedicated to organizing this year’s celebration can now be thinking of virtual for this year and Centennial for next year, assuming we’re past some of the stay-at-home and some of the requirements in place currently.”
Working in the group’s favor, “is this community is very, very supportive of our Independence Day’s celebrations,” Mr. Baumberger said, “and everyone here has a legacy – an involvement in the Fourth perhaps going back to their childhood. So we have a lot to celebrate, and we’ve got a lot to think about planning for the next 100 years.”
For this year, “it’s obviously disappointing,” he said. “But in these times, the right thing to do is simply hunker down and deal with our Covid-19 problems and be supportive of the community in any way, shape or form we can.”