Empty skies: Mount Angel July 4th fireworks canceled

July 2020 Posted in Community, News

By Melissa Wagoner

This year Mount Angel’s Fourth of July celebration was going to be different. Sarah Bauman, president of the Mt. Angel Chamber of Commerce, has known that since the pandemic began.

“We pretty much wrote the parade off right away,” she said of the difficult decision the Chamber of Commerce board made in early spring. “But… what can we do for the fireworks?”

Because those fireworks were already purchased, and after three stressful months, the Chamber was determined to find a way to help the citizens of Mount Angel enjoy a little bit of normalcy – even if it meant getting creative.

“We knew fireworks couldn’t happen the way they normally would but we were like ‘It can still happen,’” Bauman recalled of those early brainstorming sessions.

And so the Chamber got to work, developing a plan to host a safe, physically distant fireworks display, utilizing the potential for the show to be visible for miles around, even from the safety of private backyards. 

“The fireworks pyrotechnic team said this still can happen,” Bauman said. “And we really wanted to make it happen.”

But those shows are expensive and Chamber Past President Pete Wall had reservations.

“To get a display that people could enjoy with social distancing, we just couldn’t do it,” Wall said.

Nevertheless, Brian Halverson, Chamber July 4th committee chair, presented a plan to the Mount Angel City Council.

“There were a handful of councilors that just wouldn’t even hear it,” Bauman said sadly. “They said, ‘Why haven’t you already canceled this?’”

A legitimate question, according to Wall – also a member of the council – who said, “The governor’s order on crowds, or gatherings, really prohibited us from doing fireworks the way they’re normally done.”

After that first meeting, and with the council;s comments in mind, the committee redoubled its efforts to find common ground and address concerns.

“People were saying, ‘Please do the fire-works,’ and ‘How can we help?’” Bauman said, recalling the community eagerness to find a solution. “They asked, ‘Can we volunteer to stand at parking lot entrances and encourage people to stay in their cars?’”

Confident that concerns had been addressed, the chamber again approached the council with a plan, but to no avail.

“It was the same councilors,” Bauman said. “The Chamber was not even allowed to present the idea that they had to do it safely.”

Prohibition of this year’s display is disappointing, but there are other considerations for the Chamber, too, according to Wall. There’s an uncertain financial future.

“We (the Chamber) spend a lot of money on fireworks,” he said. “And the people we buy our fireworks from, they were very accommodating and said we can keep them for the next Fourth of July. We’ve already paid for them.”

That is important because, as Wall said, “We raise money all year for the fireworks, but we don’t even know if we’ll have the Hazelnut Fest this year.”

Events like December’s Hazelnut Festival and late winter’s Volksfest are the Chamber’s primary method of raising funds for things like the fireworks, the downtown fountain, flower baskets, Bavarian signage and other community contributions.

But no matter the reason, the cancellation is a bitter disappointment to both Wall and Bauman.

“I think we all could use a little July spirit,” Bauman said. “We spent a lot of time talking about it and going back and forth about it. To still be told no is a hard pill to swallow. We want people to know we tried.”

Similarly, Wall stated, “For Sarah, Brian and I – and for a lot of us it hurts. It hurts that we can’t do what we’ve always done.”

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