Boom or bust: Fireworks permit for the Fourth sparks debate | COVID-19

TRAVERSE CITY – Celebrating July Fourth with fireworks over West Grand Traverse Bay is not off the table yet, but the looming pandemic issues are causing Traverse City officials to weigh up whether to cut the fuse.

The TC Boom Boom Club, a non-profit organization that organizes a fireworks display every year at the same time as the National Cherry Festival, would like approval for Independence Day 2021. City Manager Marty Colburn recommended in a memo that the city clerk and the organization approve this To grant approval.

This would be made contingent on the public health guidelines that allow such a gathering – the fireworks usually draw thousands of people to locations across the city, Colburn said.

Tim Hinkley is TC Boom Boom Club’s chairman of the board and said its members hadn’t made their final decision about 2021. They canceled 2020 both because the pandemic was relatively new at the time and because they invited donors to the usual celebration that didn’t seem right.

Vaccination rates in Grand Traverse County are relatively high and increasing. The state figures show that 33,296 residents were fully vaccinated on Thursday at a rate of 43.4 percent.

But the virus is still a long way from disappearing from the region, and commissioners at a recent meeting pointed out expectations that it will be there by the summer. Brian McGillivary wanted to know what options the city had if the pandemic was still “raging” by then, and Tim Werner said he didn’t expect it to be gone.

“COVID will be around, and it will be a cross section of the region that is present. It will be people who wear masks, people who are at a distance, and people who don’t wear masks or who don’t wear them properly and don’t put them on. t distance or people who don’t believe in COVID, ”said Werner.

Colburn said the city needs masks and social distancing at its events and parks, including Hickory Hills in winter. However, he agreed that requirements would be more difficult to enforce.

Commissioner Ashlea Walter said her experience with crowds during fireworks is that they are the largest she sees in Traverse City.

“We can all assume that there are thousands of people and this is a completely irresponsible choice to me and I definitely would not be in favor of it,” she said.

City officials asked Colburn to hold the request for two weeks and speak to the organization and the Grand Traverse County Health Department.

Hinkley spoke earlier this week before a board meeting to recommend contacting the city.

“I hope we move forward with planning,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to say more without hearing from the board. A message left on Friday was not returned.

Werner suggested contacting health officials to find a metric – such as the county’s infection rate per 100,000 residents – that would give an indication of whether it is safe for fireworks.

Public health experts from the early days of the pandemic recommended going outside as fresh air can remove the SARS-CoV-2 virus droplets from infected people. But the disease can still spread among large, crowded outdoor crowds. The Mayo Clinic recommends masking yourself for large outdoor events.

Michigan still limits outdoor gatherings to 300, although those limits could change until July 4th.

It’s a question that other communities face. Some already choose to cancel. The Cadillac News reported that the Lake City Area Chamber of Commerce has decided not to hold a celebration for the largest fourth in the north, a move that has taken into account both the pandemic and fundraising.

The organizers of the National Cherry Festival are also considering how the summer festival can be carried out safely and have already decided against hosting an air show, as previously reported.

According to Hinkley, the TC Boom Boom Club’s only job is to safely bring fireworks to Traverse City each year. He noticed that crowds could be seen everywhere from restaurants to parks to shopping malls.

“I think people are a lot more aware of that,” he said, adding that he is wearing a mask and social distancing.

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