Fourth of July fireworks fizzle for Marietta, others during pandemic

Spectators wave their flags as the Marietta Freedom Parade makes its way down Roswell Street on Tuesday, July 4, 2016, In Marietta, GA. An estimated 30,000 spectators turned out for the parade. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC
Spectators wave their flags as the Marietta Freedom Parade makes its way down Roswell Street on Tuesday, July 4, 2016, In Marietta, GA. An estimated 30,000 spectators turned out for the parade. STEVE SCHAEFER / SPECIAL TO THE AJC

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Thousands of people flock to Marietta each year to celebrate the Fourth of July. But like so many events and traditions around the country, the city’s popular festival has been postponed by the pandemic.

The city’s Fourth of July parade and fireworks show has been put on hold due to concerns about the ability to maintain social distancing during the parade. A future date has not been set.

Marietta joins several others in metro Atlanta and Washington D.C. in uncertainty over whether and how to mark Independence Day without putting their communities at risk.

Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin, who initially proposed a scaled-back version of the parade, said his fellow elected officials “felt like it’s just better we do” a different type of celebration.

“We just didn’t think it was the right time to have it,” he said.

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Marietta’s annual July 4 celebration typically runs throughout the day, with the parade beginning around 10 a.m. and the festival continuing with an arts and crafts show, children’s activities, music, food and an evening fireworks display.

City Manager Bill Bruton said Tuesday that city and county governments around the state are waiting on guidance from Gov. Brian Kemp about how to proceed with large events. That information was supposed to be released last Friday.

Bruton said Marietta will explore holding a fireworks show later in the year. Dates discussed during Tuesday’s meeting were Labor Day, Christmas and New Year’s. Marietta is also planning a citywide patriotic contest for the Fourth of July, but Bruton said the city will release more details in the near future about that initiative.

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Other metro Atlanta cities also have postponed Fourth of July celebrations due to the pandemic. Kennesaw announced it would reschedule its event to Sept. 12. Decatur's Fourth of July festivities have also been cancelled, and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association has postponed its annual parade.

Four Gwinnett cities — Duluth, Lawrenceville, Lilburn and Suwanee — also canceled public events through July 10. No rescheduled dates have been finalized for those events.

Much larger agencies are also struggling with the decision of whether to go forward with Independence Day events. The White House said President Donald Trump was committed to holding a Fourth of July celebration in the nation’s capital even as local officials warned that the region — one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus — will not be ready to hold a major event so soon.

“As President Trump has said, there will be an Independence Day celebration this year and it will have a different look than 2019 to ensure the health and safety of those attending,” White House spokesperson Judd Deere said. Deere noted the American people “deserve celebration on America’s birthday this year” in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

Members of Congress came out against plans for large public celebrations in a letter sent to the Secretaries of Defense and the Interior on Tuesday.

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In Marietta, at least two City Council members said they were not comfortable holding an event in July due to the continuing threat of coronavirus.

Tumlin outlined his proposal for a scaled-back parade on Tuesday at the City Council’s Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee meeting. The mayor’s proposal did not get enough support to move ahead to the full City Council for consideration.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson, who contracted and has since recovered from COVID-19, said Marietta police have reduced their exposure to the virus by limiting direct contact with the public. The city would be putting their police officers' lives, as well as the lives of other Marietta employees, at risk by asking them to assist in crowd control.

“People want out and they are ready to be out,” she said. “I’m just not sure if we need to be the test subject of them ready to be out.”

Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly added she has concerns about exposing veterans, many of whom fall into high-risk categories, to the virus. As the mother of a graduating senior, Kelly also said Marietta’s class of 2020 has about 500 seniors, and the parade could attract several members of each senior’s family.

“I don’t support having it on the Fourth of July just because of all the unknowns and the uncertainties,” she said of the parade.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. 

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