As the pandemic’s effects in Colorado promise to continue into the summer, the City of Englewood is moving forward with plans to hold a Fourth of July fireworks show where an estimated 20,000-plus people gathered in 2019 — the last time the show was held before the pandemic.
But this year, officials have scheduled it one day earlier — in part because of concerns about social distancing and partly due to safety.
The city’s annual fireworks celebration, a regional draw that takes place at Cornerstone and Belleview parks near the Englewood-Littleton border, may stand out more than usual this year. Fewer area municipalities were scheduling open fireworks shows this year, at least as of March, according to an Englewood city staff report.
That raises the possibility that Englewood may be one of the few municipalities that goes forward with an Independence Day fireworks event this year, inadvertently becoming a larger attraction than normal — a topic that came up during the March 22 Englewood City Council meeting where council, on a 4-3 split decision, directed city staff to go forward with event.
The celebration is put on by Englewood in partnership with Sheridan, Littleton, Arapahoe County, and South Suburban Parks and Recreation. The entities decided to move the celebration to July 3 partly because they anticipate a large crowd at one of the first major events in the area amid the pandemic, said Toni Arnoldy, events supervisor for Englewood.
“On the third, there’s other events going on as well,” Arnoldy said, and that day seemed like a better option “instead of funneling everyone in Colorado to Englewood for fireworks on one day and getting out of control.”
The partners moved the date partly in hopes of providing more ability to social distance, keeping in mind people who may not be vaccinated or are just “COVID-conscious,” Arnoldy said.
The safety of staff and attendees in a large crowd in general was also a concern, Arnoldy said.
Meanwhile, some entities “are not flush with funds” due to effects of the pandemic, Arnoldy added. Moving the event to July 3 reduces costs for entertainment and makes logistics easier to manage, she said.
This will be the first time Arnoldy can remember that Englewood has held the event on July 3, she said. Compared to the estimated 20,000-plus people who have attended the July 4 event in years past, the crowd size “could go either way,” Arnoldy said.
People may still be wary of being out in a public setting amid the virus, or they may be eager to come out due to a built-up urge to return to normal, she said.
Englewood is anticipating upward of 20,000 people, as it would rather not be underprepared, Arnoldy said.
Mayor Linda Olson, during the March council meeting, spoke against the decision to hold the fireworks gathering, arguing that the public can participate in other ways and still celebrate the holiday.
“I think this is a very foolish public health decision based on really unreasonable thinking around (the) public and what a celebration of the Fourth is supposed to have,” Olson said at the time.
As of early March, Colorado’s COVID-19 restrictions limited Arapahoe County to 50% capacity or up to 250 people “per designated activity or area” for outdoor unseated events.
But as of March 24, with the arrival of Colorado’s since-expired “dial 3.0” policy, outdoor events in level blue counties no longer had state capacity restrictions. Soon after, the state’s dial system was phased out, and as of May 16, several metro counties are now operating in what they call “level clear,” generally with no local restrictions — including Arapahoe County.
Coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in Colorado have both started to decrease in the past couple weeks, but COVID-19 spread remains high.
More than 700 more COVID-19 deaths could occur in Colorado from early May through the end of July, according to estimates by the Colorado School of Public Health as of May 12 — even with high levels of vaccination and the current level of social distancing and mask-wearing, both of which are likely to decline.
Read the analysis here.
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