A number of traditional Fourth of July celebrations have been canceled due to the COVID pandemic, but the skies won’t be completely empty in the Valley this year, as some organizations have decided to move forward with their traditional fireworks displays to celebrate America’s independence.
The Middlecreek Valley Antique Association Inc. made the quick decision just this past Monday to move forward with their annual fireworks show on Friday at 9:30 p.m. at their grounds along Old Colony Road in Selinsgrove. The rain date is Saturday. According to the association’s secretary, Michael Clark, the tradition began many years ago with a small fireworks show for their members during a Fourth of July campout weekend.
However, he said, “People stopped to watch the fireworks, so it was decided to open it up to everyone and make it bigger. We’ve been growing our fireworks show every year by adding more fireworks, then putting music with the show and then adding refreshment stands.”
This year, however, will be scaled back to just the fireworks, with the National Anthem sung just before the show. The event is free, but they do accept donations to help pay for the fireworks and associated permit. The association will also have its trackside food stand open with a limited menu and a stand at which visitors can purchase sweet treats.
Clark said they have not yet discussed any COVID-related safety precautions. He said most visitors will probably watch the fireworks from their vehicles. They are welcome to wear masks, but it is not required. More information is available on the Middlecreek Valley Antique Association Facebook page.
Fireworks, food and flags
Other events in the Valley include a chicken barbecue (pickup at 4 p.m.) and the annual fireworks show, beginning at dusk, at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club in Selinsgrove.
The American Legion Post 44, in Northumberland, will also host a Fourth of July celebration beginning at 1 p.m. The event will include a Flag Day retirement service and a memorial service. In addition, guest speaker John Bowers will share the history of Army Pvt. Horace H. Middleton, 20, of Northumberland, who was killed during World War II, and was accounted for on Oct. 31, 2019.
Shamokin City Council reversed its decision to cancel its Independence Day festivities. The celebrations will be different from previous years, but will feature live music in the park and smaller firework shows throughout the city.
Bands will be playing at Claude Kehler park Saturday starting at 3 p.m.
Shamokin is closing Arch Street from the park to Market Street and Independence Street from Market to Rock streets from 7 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. so people can take advantage of local businesses being open. The city also suspended the open container ordinance for the day in those areas.
The fireworks show will begin at 9:45 p.m. in the municipal parking lot off Market Street. A second display will be at 10 p.m. in the post office parking lot. The final show will be in the lot behind Claude Kehler Park at 10:15 p.m.
For the first time, Backyard Broadcasting will host a fireworks show at the Lycoming County fairgrounds in Hughesville. The estimated start time is 9:40 p.m. Saturday.
The new location is the result of the city of Williamsport not being able to hold fireworks in the city this year — first due to a decision to move their event from the downtown to avoid gatherings of large crowds. The new location was then nixed due to a protected bald eagles nest being too close; a federal clearance to hold the fireworks there was not obtained in time.
According to Hughesville borough Secretary Gail Kocher, the fairgrounds will remain closed, but the parking lot will be opened for visitors to watch the fireworks show from there. Kocher said Lycoming County fire police and local police will assist with traffic control.
According to Kocher, they are looking forward to being able to offer the fireworks show in the borough. She said many in that part of the county would typically go to the Montgomery fireworks, which are also going to be held again this year on Friday, while others go to Williamsport. The fireworks at the fairgrounds should be visible to a wide range of people throughout the area.
Decision to cancel difficult
While some fireworks and July 4 activities are continuing, there are those who had to make the tough decision in the face of the pandemic to cancel their long-held traditions, including in State College, Sunbury, Mifflinburg, New Berlin and Lewisburg.
In New Berlin, the Fourth of July festivities in The Commons, along Penns Creek, will no doubt be missed. The day-long tradition has included a volleyball tournament, quoit and horseshoe tournament, Turtle Derby, cardboard boat regatta, and many other activities that both locals and out-of-towners enjoy each year. And of course, the fireworks are always a major draw.
Shirl Hummel, coordinator of the New Berlin Activities Committee, and Barbara Stamm, a member of the committee and of the New Berlin Borough Council, wrote in a statement: “New Berlin has a twist to the fireworks all its own. Because we view the fireworks over the water at the Commons, we are able to provide background music which usually consists of patriotic songs. There’s a great deal of American pride felt by many when the rockets’ red glare ascend and burst in the air to the tune of ‘I’m Proud to Be an American.'”
This would have been the 26th year for the annual Union County Veterans’ 4th of July Celebration in Lewisburg, according to committee President Terry Burke. The popular fireworks display and parade would have been held this past weekend.
Their decision to cancel, Burke said, came in April after a lot of monitoring of state and federal guidelines for social distancing, and consulting of county emergency management, and medical and local officials.
“With everything going on in the state and country, it was determined that the idea of bringing so many people to downtown Lewisburg in such close proximity was not a good idea.”
“It’s disappointing,” Burke said. “It was not a fun decision to make, but I think all of us slept well after making it. You have to do what’s in the best interest of the community.”
However, their spirits remain encouraged. They are “absolutely” optimistic about the future of the event, Burke said, adding, “We’ve already started talking to people for next year.”