CONWAY — Independence Day will be quieter this year as Mount Washington Valley area communities have canceled their holiday events because of COVID-19. While there won’t be the traditional Fourth of July parade through Conway Village, some towns are getting creative.
The Town of Bartlett and Bartlett Recreation will be hosting a virtual Fourth of July parade. Bartlett Rec is asking for festive Fourth photos and will make a video to post to Bartlett Rec’s Facebook page (Bartlett Rec Bara) on the Fourth of July. Then voting will begin (anyone can vote). All you have to do is put the number of the picture or video in the comment field, and the one that has the most votes will win.
Meanwhile, the town of Denmark, Maine, will be having a “reverse” parade through the village today at 10 a.m. The floats will be stationary along a designated parade route. Those who wish the see the floats can line up in decorated cars on the Denmark Road near the Town Beach starting after 9:30 a.m. The parade starts at 10 a.m. The parade route will turn left onto Route 160/W. Main St., straight at the monument and then circle back around at Heads Hill on Route 117.
The fire department will provide traffic control at all intersections. The car convoy will drive along parade route: People are asked not to throw items or candy from cars, and not to stop along the route. Residents along the route are also encouraged to decorate their homes in honor of Independence Day.
Meanwhile, it will be another summer Saturday in Conway, where selectmen decided in late April to postpone Independence Day fireworks and live events like the Fourth of July parade until the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
Chairman David Weathers said at their April 21 meeting, “To have a Fourth of July without a parade, it’s really tough to take, but you have to look at the health risks.”
Ultimately, however, selectmen voted to cancel events scheduled for July 4 but left the window open to having celebrations later in the year, such as on Labor Day weekend (Sept. 5-7). If not, the money for fireworks can be credited towards next year.
In Eaton, the July 4th barbecue was canceled, and the town of Freedom won’t be displaying fireworks or holding any festivities on July 4.
In Fryeburg, Maine, Recreation Director Rick Buzzell suggested having “drive-in” fireworks at the Fairgrounds, but a majority of selectmen nixed that idea on the belief that there could be a huge crowd and attendees will refuse to social distance.
“I’ve got big concerns,” said Selectman Tom Kingsbury. “It’s a good idea, but it’s reckless and irresponsible.”
Jackson isn’t doing July 4th fireworks, but a “Grand Weekend Back” event with fireworks is being planned for the end of the month.
Madison doesn’t offer July 4 fireworks but usually has them in August during Old Home Week. A decision on whether Old Home Week can move forward is expected to be made next month.
Ossipee Selectman Martha Eldridge said she had met with town and emergency officials and it was unanimously decided that the Fourth of July fireworks and parade would be canceled.
“We couldn’t find any good reasons to have the fireworks,” said Eldridge on June 1. “We thought for public health and safety, it was a smart move to cancel.”
At the June 15 meeting, resident Dallas Emery challenged the selectmen on that decision. “Everybody needs to get over their fear,” said Emery. “It’s a fear thing at this point. Everybody is afraid.”
Selectmen seemed unwilling to revisit the decision.
“There is a difference between fear and caution,” said Selectman Jonathan Smith.
Town Administrator Matt Sawyer said there was a concern that Ossipee would get overrun with people if it held fireworks and other towns didn’t.
Tamworth voters at annual town meeting in March said they didn’t want a town fireworks show if it couldn’t be on the Fourth.
The town was unable to contract for a July Fourth fireworks show due to an apparent scheduling snafu with their vendor, who offered June 27 as an alternative. At the town meeting, those who didn’t want any fireworks at all won.
Of course, that is now true of every town in the valley, although many are hoping that Conway will be celebrating Labor Day with a bang.