Local communities think outside the box to produce Independence Day celebrations
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Local communities think outside the box to produce Independence Day celebrations

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The coronavirus pandemic has brought a halt to many of the traditional Independence Day events that take place around Linn and Benton counties each year. 

A majority of the festivities that happened seamlessly 12 months ago have been canceled in order to abide by state health guidelines. But there will still be a handful of events happening on July 4 that will give folks a chance to celebrate the holiday locally — and do so safely. 

In each case, organizers have been forced to get creative and modify traditional proceedings. 

The only formal firework show in the area during the holiday weekend will be the Star Spangled Celebration — Fire in the Sky, which will take place at Cheadle Lake in Lebanon on the 4th. 

The Lebanon Strawberry Festival is organizing the display, and has found a way to bring a stellar show to Lebanon’s residents while also maintaining social distancing practices. Simply put, they purchased fireworks that shoot higher and produce larger explosions than they have in the past so that most of the town will be able to watch the show without leaving home.

“We wanted to do something for the community — we can’t really do an event because of the restrictions,” Cindy Kerby, board chairperson for the Lebanon Strawberry Festival, said. “So our solution was to get fireworks that can shoot higher in the sky.”

While the display will bring a sense of normalcy to Lebanon on the holiday, Kerby stressed that viewers are only meant to enjoy it from their homes, and should not show up in person like they traditionally would. 

The walking path at Cheadle Lake will close at 11 a.m. on the 4th, and there will be no gathering or parking around the lake that day. Parking will be enforced, and town residents are being asked to not park along the roadside or highway. 

With those guidelines in place, the Star Spangled Celebration does not serve as an event for those who live outside Lebanon to travel. 

“That was the challenge from the beginning — other people are going to want to enjoy it,” Kerby said. “All we can do is make sure the laws are enforced in town and people can watch safely from home. … We’re not discouraging anybody from coming, but we’re not encouraging it.”

Western Display Fireworks will be providing the pyrotechnics, as they have done for the Festival in the past. According to Kerby, Western Display typically supplies several hundred shows for the holiday each year, but is only doing about 50 this year. 

Because the explosions will be particularly loud this time around, pet owners are encouraged to make sure their pets are taken care of during the show. 

More information on the event can be found at http://www.lebanonstrawberryfestival.com/star-spangled-celebration.

Traditional shows such as the Corvallis Jaycees fireworks display have been canceled this year, as has the Rhythm Rivers event in Albany. As of Wednesday, there will be no formal Independence Day festivities happening in Albany, according to City spokesperson Marilyn Smith. 

One other community that has found a way to celebrate the holiday in a less traditional manner is Harrisburg, which will host a “reverse” parade the morning of the 4th. 

Residents, businesses and small groups can decorate, dress up, or build a float in their yard or driveway. Then, pictures of entrants will be posted so residents can drive around town to view them, and also vote in a “people’s choice award.” 

Judges from the City will drive around to take photos of entries and hand out candy to participating children between 10 a.m. and noon on the 4th. 

“So many other communities were not putting anything at all on. We were all just thinking of these children’s faces when they don’t have a parade to go to,” Harrisburg City Administrator Michele Eldridge said. “They don’t have fireworks to watch. So we looked around at some other organizations and came up with this reverse parade.” 

Harrisburg will also host two flag raising ceremonies on the 4th — one at 8 a.m. at 490 Smith Street, and another at 10 a.m. at Smith and 1st Street. 

More information on Harrisburg’s Independence Day festivities can be found at https://www.ci.harrisburg.or.us/community/page/4th-july-event-schedule.

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