ST. GEORGE — The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have unforeseen consequences when it comes to decisions made by local governments.
During Thursday’s virtual St. George City Council meeting via Zoom, City Manager Adam Lenhard cited some examples.
“We have seen throughout the state other cities who have gone ahead and canceled celebrations (like) Days of 47, and the Freedom Festival in Provo is yet to be determined.”
Lenhard’s comments were in regard to the city’s Independence Day events, including the annual 99.9 KONY Country “4th of July Celebration,” which is held in the stadium on the Dixie State University campus – an event which has been officially canceled for 2020.
Lenhard said the city would still “love to do something.”
“We recognize it would not be the same – that we would not be able to pack people into the stadium – but we would love to do something.”
Along with social distancing protocols, there is a financial consideration, Lenhard added.
“Right now we plan on maintaining, for the most part, a similar budget for the Fourth of July,” he said. “This is one of those things … that we wanted to prioritize and make something still happen.”
The city has typically spent $40,000 on fireworks in the past. Between a long-standing partnership with Canyon Media, the parent company of St. George News that puts on the celebration in the stadium, other financial options are on the table.
Past celebrations put on by the city have included a carnival, parade, events in Town Square and the fireworks show.
As far as the fireworks, St. George Mayor Jon Pike said, “We’re doing them. … It’s $40,000, we’re doing them.”
Council members agreed it would be an “embarrassment” if fireworks were suspended this year.
Although two locations were under consideration to be ground zero for a launch point – Tech Ridge and Red Hill – the city only has one pyrotechnic license, and the decision ultimately fell on Tech Ridge, as the location might make it more visible to other areas.
“We can call it ‘Pyro Tech Ridge,'” Pike said tongue-in-cheek.
Canyon Media has said they are planning to contribute to help increase the firework budget.
Coupled with an increase in budget, a different venue would allow the increase of firework shell size to increase from a 4-inch shell to 12 inches, which Pike said would be “going big and beefing up the show.”
Although some details still need to be worked out, the City Council voted to keep the fireworks and parade if the state grants approval. The city may also host a 4K run but still has to figure out how to host an event that involves a mass start and a large congregation of people.
Everything else, including the carnival and concert at Dixie State University, has been canceled.
“I would love to see the parade, and if you didn’t hold the carnival you would have the biggest parade turnout that we’ve ever had,” said Councilman Gregg McArthur. “Maybe it’s not what we want, but I would love to see that.”
Pike predicted that by July, the state emergency level would drop to yellow status, even more relaxed than the current orange status designated by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert to start Friday.
For nearly 30 years Canyon Media has partnered with the city to host Fourth of July events, and according to Ben Lindquist, Canyon Media general manager, that partnership will endure.
“The city is still thrilled to partner with us and we will be providing a 60-90 Minute ‘Tribute to America’ that will be broadcast on 99.9 KONY COUNTRY,” Lindquist wrote in an internal memo to Canyon Media employees. “This patriotic tribute and celebration of our nation’s independence will culminate with the best firework show our community has ever put on.”
Lindquist said they will not let the cancellation of the show at the stadium discourage the way Canyon Media prepares for the level of creativity seen in the past.
“Perhaps most importantly our 2021 show will be a return to our normal concert and presentation,” he wrote. “We will go bigger and we will get better.”
In an interview with St. George News, Lindquist added that it’s challenging to see such a scale-back of both big and small events. However, with so many unknowns related to when large crowds will be cleared by state and county officials, the decision had to be made.
“I am certainly disappointed,” he said. “The city has been a great partner who is dealing with external circumstances that we have to respect. We will make the best of it and do the best that we can to celebrate America.”
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