AUSTIN, Texas - The Stars and Stripes are flying over city parks where 4th of July fireworks shows typically are held each year. How to set off the night-time starbursts this year is now in question because of the outbreak of COVID-19.
Some like Suzanne Wood, who lives in Jarrell, say light the fuse. "Now more than ever, I think people are going to understand the importance of celebrating America and the freedoms we appreciate,” she said.
Others worry hold fireworks shows could trigger a viral outbreak. "Part of me also thinks that maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and not partake in these kinds of things this year in order to get out of this pandemic sooner rather than later. Sort of write it off this year, so we can get back to normal,” said Jenny Martin.
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A fireworks show at Cedar Park's Milburn Park is still in the works. It's a big park, but problems with social distancing are expected to cancel musical performances and will prevent vendors from setting up. The Independence Day parade is also expected to be canceled.
Officials in Georgetown and San Marcos say they will not hold daytime events. They are trying to coordinate how to do the fireworks show in their main parks. The CapMetro Park & Ride is where Leander stages its annual Libertyfest.
The fireworks show is on but will be scaled back, according to city spokesperson Michael Neu.
"Doing some version of July 4th gets us on track, in feeling like we are bringing the community back together again, and that’s really one of our biggest goals here. And whatever scope this event turns out to be on the 4th, as long as it’s a celebration that brings this community together, I've think we've accomplished that,” said Neu.
Neu said they are working on alternatives for those worried about the virus. "We can always compensate with a virtual environment, we can compensate basically with what we are doing now, creating some widescreen alternatives for people to still participate in their own way without feeling like they need to be physically there, present,” he said.
Sue Williams, who lives in Cedar Park, likes having options over no show. "If you are in a place where you can see it, from where you live, or go somewhere close enough and not to be in a large crowd, you get to enjoy it, seeing it live, but if you're not and you can see it on zoom, you still know you’re part of the community, and you still have that feeling of, we are all in this together, I think,” she said.
In Round Rock, the traditional parade packs people in the old town district but this year, it may be broken up into three different neighborhood parades. Details on how to hold the frontier day celebration and fireworks show are still in the works.
Austin's show draws the biggest crowd in the metro area. FOX7 has been told the event is still going through the permitting process, which includes providing a COVID19 safety plan. But earlier this month, when asked about music festivals, city officials said it was too soon to allow large gatherings; indicating the skies over Austin may be dark on the 4th.
Most of the communities say they hope to have specific details out by next week. But everything could change if there is a big spike in virus cases.
In a statement, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell said “if local officials feel the fireworks shows are appropriate,” he supports them. He stipulated that only as long as social distancing and safe practices are encouraged.
FOX 7 Austin is working to keep you up to date with coronavirus, with both local and national developments. You can also get the latest COVID-19 news from around the country at coronavirusnow.com.