Get your July Fourth questions answered here
April 30, 2021
After July Fourth celebrations were canceled en masse last summer due to the pandemic, community members are looking forward to some sort of celebration of our nation’s birthday this summer in Cloquet.
What kind of celebration is the big question. After all, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away. In fact, thanks to variants and the fact that plenty of people are not yet fully vaccinated, it may even be making a comeback.
With that in mind, we sat down with July Fourth coordinator Alyson Leno and her top two volunteers, Karin Stedman and Jana Peterson. Stedman works for the City of Cloquet in the parks division, and Peterson is the editor of the Pine Knot News. All three have been an integral part of Cloquet’s largest annual celebration for years.
Q: What are health officials saying about Covid-19 and large gatherings?
A: State guidelines are kind of confusing, but generally limit larger outdoor gatherings to 500 people or so. We understand guidelines are changing, constantly, so we’re staying in close contact with both local and state entities to make the correct decision for our community.
Locally, public health reactions are guarded. So far the county public health is good with the idea of the fireworks and hopeful that Covid numbers will be low enough that we could hold a parade and some of the smaller individual events. However, with recent cases in the county going up, we have been told that it is not wise to host any event where people are congested. We are consulting with Carlton County Public Health, the CMH Covid task force team and other health care professionals in the community. We are good at putting together an event, but we need to rely on the professionals to make sure we do that safely.
Q: What do you know for sure will happen this year and why?
A: As we see what is happening around the world, we feel very fortunate that some of our typical events are at a much less risk of spreading the virus! They always get a great turnout of people; however, it’s not the thousands of people we get crowded around in one park. We think a fireworks display is pretty much guaranteed, because people can watch fireworks from all kinds of different places throughout the community — they don’t have to gather in one spot to do it, and we hope they don’t.
Other than that …
The NorthEastern organizes the car show every year, and that is a go. They have already reached out to Minnesota car clubs to bring in all the vehicles and are planning their typical grilling of hamburgers and fries outside their building and are following all MDH rules on max capacity, social distancing and masks.
The Sawdust 5k is also in full swing with their planning: the event is always held down in Pinehurst Park. They’re making proper adjustments to follow guidelines so the race can still happen. Please follow their Facebook page, Cloquet Sawdust 5k walk/run, for more information as we get closer to the event.
The 3-on-3 basketball tournament is looking for players! They plan to host their event, as normal, at the Pinehurst Park courts. Please reach out to Paul on instagram at @pinehurstcourts.
Q: Are there any events that likely won’t happen?
A: We are taking into consideration the number of people the celebration pulls into the community. Thousands! Large congested areas are not something we can do to hold a safe event and, unfortunately, that includes the activities held down in Veterans Park. So, we very likely will not be holding all the activities during the day and the movie at night. Just imagine all those kids in bouncy houses together all day, or digging for quarters in the sand shoulder-to-shoulder. It’s just not a good idea to bring that many children — who haven’t been vaccinated because there aren’t Covid vaccines for kids yet — together like that. Plus, it’s really difficult to have any kind of control over numbers of people in the park, because it’s an open space. So there’s really no way to comply with state regulations regarding the number of people in an outdoor venue. The Veterans Park activities also require the most volunteers, and we want to minimize the risk to everyone.
Q: What about the parade?
A: The jury’s still out on the parade. If it were tomorrow, we’d have to say no, because numbers are rising. It has been wonderful to hear that we have about 50 percent of people in our community fully vaccinated; however, that leaves a large portion of our community (along with children 15 and under for whom the vaccine is not yet available) who are still able to continue the spread of the virus. Unfortunately for us, it’s more difficult to bring these large, congested, events back knowing we could have another outbreak in our community. On the other hand, we’d like to think that people could spread out by family groups during the parade to follow social distancing guidelines, but that is also impossible to control. We are waiting for some guidance from the state on the parade, or some creative ideas for restructuring it.
Q: Are you planning anything that won’t require large groups of people to gather together?
A: We always work with the Pentagon in organizing the flyover. This is something we hope will be approved for us again. We also have tossed around the idea of doing a window decorating competition throughout the community. We’re still brainstorming if anyone has other ideas.
Q: What if it rains July Fourth, do you have a rain date?
A: If it rains on July Fourth and we need to reschedule, we will have the fireworks only on July 5th … same time, same place.
Q: What are the challenges in a normal year of holding Cloquet’s July Fourth celebration?
A: The biggest challenge is fundraising for the event, which normally costs around $20,000. While the City of Cloquet helps by waiving fees and paying for a coordinator, donations for the actual event come from businesses, organizations and individuals in the community.
Those beautiful, fleeting fireworks actually consume the lion’s share of the funding. This year we are hoping to spend $13,000 on the fireworks, but if we get enough donations, and our other events are canceled, we can increase that for the year.
Finding volunteers on July Fourth is the other issue. The Veterans Park events need three days’ worth of volunteers to set up, tear down and run everything, so that’s probably 75 percent of our volunteer needs and we never have enough.
So canceling events at Veterans Park doesn't save us a ton of money but it does save us the effort of trying to find people to volunteer.
Q: What happened to last year’s donations since all festivities were canceled then?
A: We were planning the event right in the middle of the pandemic, with the hopes it would happen. Most businesses, individuals and organizations had not yet donated to the event due to their own uncertainty about how their lives had already changed and still were changing. We also, unfortunately, had to pay a large cancellation fee for the fireworks. Others had committed funds, but we never received them since the event didn’t happen. If those who donated did not request their funds back last year, they will be utilized towards this year’s event.
Q: How can people stay updated on plans for the Fourth?
A: We will continue to make updates on our “Cloquet 4th of July Festival” Facebook page and will also reach out to the local papers and radio stations to be sure our community has the most updated information.