July 4 celebrations move online

July 4 celebrations move online

County planning TV concert, fireworks program Friday night

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The city of Gaithersburg reworked its SummerFest graphic to note that the event will be virtual this year.

With traditional July 4 celebrations in the area going dark because of the coronavirus pandemic, the county and individual municipalities are creating virtual programming instead.

The county canceled all fireworks displays and parades, including Germantown Glory, which has been held in recent years at South Germantown Recreational Park, and Mid-County Sparkles, which has been held at Albert Einstein High School.

Rockville, Takoma Park and Gaithersburg have called off their annual events this year, as well.

In place of in-person celebrations, Montgomery County is planning a televised concert and fireworks show using archival footage to air on local cable channels Friday night, according to public information officer Barry Hudson.

The concert will use clips of performances from Strathmore, Montgomery County Public Schools and Montgomery College, according to Hudson. The city of Rockville will provide the footage of a previous year’s fireworks show. 

“I would call it a big deal …,” said Hudson. “It will be a nice thing to watch.”

Similarly, Gaithersburg plans to launch a series of online events throughout the week to replace the city’s annual SummerFest celebration, including a montage video of past fireworks shows released on Saturday.

The free SummerFest program in Gaithersburg, which began in 2017, is typically held at Bohrer Park. It features an all-day concert, food vendors and a nighttime glow-in-the-dark dance party. The fireworks display usually happens at dusk.

Lauren Neal, senior program supervisor for the city’s Cultural Events and Services Division, said the city determined there was no way to set off fireworks without the risk of people congregating in the park and violating social distancing.

“There’s not really the height for people to view them from a distance,” Neal said. “We definitely didn’t want to send large crowds of people to privately owned parking lots.”

Online festivities will include a strawberry shortcake cooking demonstration video and a read-aloud of the book “Red, White, and Boom” along with a craft activity and snack-making activity from the Casey Community Center and a DIY Fourth of July centerpiece video from the Kentlands Mansion.

In addition, The Arts Barn will release two video performances of one-actor plays about Abraham Lincoln and Dolley Madison, as well as a lesson on how to draw fireworks.

The Gaithersburg Community Museum will release an author talk with Tim Grove on his recent book on the national anthem. It will also post a video demonstrating proper disposal technique of an American flag.

The Benjamin Gaither center will release a “Happy July 4” video montage, and the department of Parks, Recreation & Culture will put out an independence day-themed fitness video.

The city will share all of these programs on its Facebook page.

“We’re trying to keep the [Parks, Recreation and Culture] community involved, and all of our different groups of patrons involved, and feeling like we’re still doing something,” Neal said. “To feel like we’re kind of all in this together.”

Neal said she’s disappointed the city can’t come together for its usual celebration, but the community has responded well to the changes. 

“Even though it’s really hard — especially when there are big holidays and you have young kids [and] it’s their first experience with fireworks or whatever and you’re really looking forward to it — we understand that we’re really trying to protect our community,” she said. “I’m really proud of Gaithersburg and how understanding all of our residents have been with the restrictions that we’ve had to make.”

Columbia Country Club and Chevy Chase Country Club fireworks displays have also been canceled.

Takoma Park canceled its annual fireworks display prior to COVID-19 restrictions, because Takoma Park Middle School, where fireworks are typically set off, is under construction.

Parade coordinator Tara Marie Egan said the city decided to cancel its parade due to social distancing requirements and to avoid fundraising for the event during a time of financial strain on individuals and local businesses.

The city has no plans for virtual events, though Egan noted that the parade committee plans to post videos and pictures from past parades on its Facebook page.

This year, which would have been the 131st annual parade for Takoma Park, is the first time the parade hasn’t occurred since its inception.

“It’s a long-standing community tradition that went all the way through World War I and World War II,” Egan said. “Everyone has been really understanding that this is what has to happen in order to be safe.”

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