What was that boom? Sadly, not the city’s popular Fourth of July fireworks display at Baker Prairie Middle School. The Canby Fire District notified the city of Canby during its virtual council meeting last night that the show would be canceled for 2020.
Canby Fire Chief Jim Davis told the Canby Now Podcast on Monday that they had not yet made an official decision, but were certainly leaning strongly toward canceling it. The decision is in line with many other major displays in Oregon and Washington that have been nixed in recent weeks, those in Vancouver, St. Paul and Seaside.
“At this time, donations are very slow and asking for donations in today’s economic situation is not being considerate,” Chief Davis noted. “The fireworks display is also on school district property, and we can not predict what level of social distancing the state and Clackamas County will be at on July 4, 2020.”
And though it certainly gets the lion’s share, Covid-19 is not entirely to blame: The State Fire Marshall and the Fire Defense Boards are also concerned about a higher danger of wildfires this year due to low rainfalls in April, the chief said.
“Please know this was not an easy decision to make, and we know it will be an unfavorable one,” Chief Davis said in a press release Thursday afternoon. “Be assured that our number one priority is, and always will be, keeping our community safe. With that, your Fire District is committed to providing the Canby Community a fireworks display once again, in 2021.”
No final decision has been made on the Canby Independence Day Celebration in and around Wait Park, including the popular parade, but that is likely to come soon.
The bottom line? It doesn’t look good.
The same concerns about what the social distancing guidelines and the governor’s executive orders could look like in two months also apply to these festivities, and Mayor Brian Hodson noted that much of the planning that would go into the large event has been on hold since early March.
“At this point, the amount of planning it would take to get us going and plan such an event would take a lot of city staff time,” Hodson said.
Another concern is that, while the city celebration is already a large draw on its own, with an estimated annual attendance in the 10,000 range, that could grow even larger if Canby is one of the only events in the area still open at a time when so many others have been shut down.
“When we typically see several thousand people anyway, with the cancellation of other events, the concern is that we could really be pushing untenable social distancing numbers,” the mayor said.
Governor Kate Brown recently extended her statewide emergency order through July 6. Though she could terminate it early, and some even expect her to do so, if it is still in effect, it would ban any large gatherings in which the minimum six-feet social distancing guidelines cannot be enforced.
“It’s hard to imagine that we could guarantee everybody will stay six feet away from each other, with a massive event that draws thousands of people,” said City Attorney Joe Lindsay.
Even if the festival is canceled, there is the possibility that some sort of modified, vehicle-only parade with a longer route, or some other “virtual celebration” could be observed. The city’s event planning staff was expected to meet today to discuss options, with a decision perhaps coming next week.