Less than two weeks after receiving permission from the Highlands Board of Commissioners to use Sept. 5 as an alternate date for the annual July Fourth fireworks display, the Highlands Chamber of Commerce officially postponed the fireworks on Monday.
In a written statement, Highlands Chamber Executive Director Kaye McHan noted that multiple factors were taken into consideration before making the call to postpone one of the most popular events of the year.
“In light of the Macon County Health Department’s announcement on Friday, May 29 about the rise of positive COVID-19 cases and after much discussion with town officials, neighboring chambers and destination promoters, it is with great regret that we will postpone the 2020 Fourth of July fireworks until the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5,” McHan said.
According to Macon County Public Health officials, the number of COVID-19 cases in the county had jumped from 18 to 90 in less than a week’s time. That number includes a cluster of six cases connected to Old Edwards Inn.
Along with taking COVID-19 cases into consideration, McHan pointed out that the Chamber of Commerce board was forced to consider the current regulations for public gatherings imposed by NC Gov. Roy Cooper’s Office, which currently limits gatherings to 25 people or less.
While there is a chance that North Carolina may move into phase three of Cooper’s reopening plan prior to July 4, and those gathering restrictions may be relaxed, there is no way to know if or when that might happen.
Considerations were also made regarding restaurant capacity, retail occupancy and accommodation availability, according to McHan.
“The Highlands Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has made the prudent and wise decision to postpone the July 4th fireworks display,” Highlands Mayor Patrick Taylor said in a written statement. “Given the circumstances, it is very uncertain as to whether large gatherings will be, or should be, permitted at this time. The Highlands Town Board was consulted and deferred the decision to the sponsoring organization and we understand the necessity of postponing the fireworks until Labor Day.”
McHan noted that the Chamber of Commerce is looking into new alternative ways to allow residents and visitors to celebrate the Fourth of July Holiday that are in line with what state guidelines allow.
Franklin’s show goes on
On Friday, the Franklin Chamber of Commerce postponed its fireworks display scheduled for July 4.
Three days later, the Town of Franklin, announced that it would host its own fireworks display and allow for visitors to take in the fireworks drive-in style.
In a written statement, Franklin Chamber of Commerce Board President Candy Presley said that the decision to postpone the fireworks was “not made lightly.” The statement went on to cite Cooper’s executive order limiting mass gatherings as the reason for the postponement.
On Monday, Town of Franklin Festivals and Events announced that while the annual Fourth of July parade and community events at the Macon County Rec Park have been cancelled, the organization is going to have a “park and watch” fireworks display on Highlands Road at 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 4.
According to information provided by Town of Franklin Festivals and Events, more details about the format of the Franklin fireworks display will be made public in coming days.
Cashiers fireworks cancelled
The annual fireworks event at Village Green in Cashiers has been cancelled.
Village Green Director Ann Self pointed to coronavirus-related issues for the reason of cancellation.
“The continuing uncertainty of the pandemic and ongoing concern for the health and safety of the participants were two of the key factors in making this decision,” Self said. “We are profoundly disappointed that we cannot hold our traditional fireworks show in Cashiers.”
Self add that the cost of the fireworks display is roughly $25,000 and that amount is traditionally raised via donations. Thus far in 2020, there have not been any donations to put on the fireworks display.
“Many people don’t realize that the Village Green is a privately conserved park and we do not receive any county funding,” Self said.
The Village Green is working on an alternative plan to celebrate the Fourth of July in accordance with state public health guidelines and those festivities will be announced at a later date.