When we postponed our Independence Eve Celebration normally held each year on July 3rd, we hoped we could reschedule the event for September 5th. “We wanted to hold the event on Labor Day weekend as a celebration of summer, and hopefully as a celebration of improved pandemic conditions,” said Board Chair Jim Bachrach. “Unfortunately, after a review of all the current information and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, the Florida Department of Health, the Franklin County Department of Health, and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phased reopening plan, we’ve come to the decision to postpone this event indefinitely.”
Among those recommendations is the Florida Department of Health’s advisory calling for citizens to avoid crowds and for community-wide mass gatherings of more than 250 people to be cancelled. Under Gov. Ron DeSantis’ phased reopening plan, the current Phase 2 guidelines discourage gatherings of more than 50 people. The CDC’s Readiness and Planning Tool to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 at Events and Gatherings was also consulted.
The annual event includes live music, food trucks, a Veteran’s Tribute speaker, the singing of the National Anthem, children’s activities, and a fireworks display reflected in the waters of the Apalachicola River. It has been recognized as an Outstanding Special Event by the Florida Secretary of State and named one of the Top 12 Fireworks Events in Florida.
A new date has not been announced. “This event is a big draw for locals and visitors. Right now the Franklin County Health Department is reporting community spread of the virus, which would be a major concern for our volunteers as well as attendees,” said Main Street board member Susan Oakes. “Based on current conditions, we’re not prepared to announce another date that may also be subject to cancellation. We’ll continue to stay in compliance by following local, state, and federal guidelines and make decisions accordingly.”
In an email to the roughly 100 volunteers who work the event each year, Volunteer Coordinator and retired hospice and eldercare nurse Connie Finneran expressed concern for protecting their health. “With the current coronavirus situation, planning an event on Labor weekend would not be advisable. We truly value our volunteers and would not want to ask you to place yourself or your families at risk. So, at this moment in time, this event is postponed indefinitely until it can be done safely.”
The annual event draws 8,000 people, making it the largest single-day event in the county. The celebration is completely funded by contributions from businesses and residents of the Big Bend area. Funds raised not only cover the expenses of the event but also support Main Street’s programs for the coming year.
In addition to being a beloved community tradition, the celebration has become a significant economic driver for downtown businesses, with many reporting it as their biggest sales day of the year.
“Postponing this event has been painful in a lot of ways,” said Main Street’s Executive Director Augusta West. “The impact on the children of the community has been top of mind for me. It’s been a tough summer for kids, and I imagine they would all love to come down to Riverfront Park and have fun together. I hope the community understands this decision was not made lightly. We’ll continue to evaluate our options for future dates.”
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