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Bangor's July 4 festivities to be postponed to Labor Day weekend

May 13, 2020
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Fireworks are seen high in the sky during a July 4th celebration in Bangor. Fireworks are seen high in the sky during a July 4th celebration in Bangor. (edge file photo by Kevin Bennett)

Annual event to be renamed COVID Independence Day to honor Mainers

BANGOR – The Greater Bangor 4th of July Corporation, the non-profit group that organizes the Independence Day festivities for the greater Bangor region, has been monitoring the latest news and meeting with state and local officials for guidance regarding Gov. Janet Mills’ four-phase plan to reopen the state and the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendations.

Today, the organization announced its intention to postpone the day’s events until Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5, 2020. The organization has also renamed the July 4 celebration “COVID Independence Day” to honor all the sacrifices made by Maine’s residents to help stem the pandemic.

“In the interest of ensuring the health and safety of the many tens of thousands who gather to eat at our annual pancake breakfast and attend the parade, concert and fireworks that night, along with Gov. Mills’ restrictions in place for gatherings of 50 or less as part of stage 3 of her reopening plan set for July 1, we feel moving the celebration to the Saturday before Labor Day will still give everyone in the area an opportunity to celebrate our independence from not one, but two truly remarkable events in our history – remarkable unfortunately in very different ways,” said Michael Fern, president of the 4th of July Corp.

The day’s events were originally expanded to include more parade units, inclusion of the Bangor Symphony Orchestra and Bangor Band for the concert series, and a larger fireworks display this year as part of Maine’s bicentennial celebrations across the state. However, the rescheduled September event will not include the usual pancake breakfast or concert elements to keep crowds from congregating in any one particular spot.

“Even though we could have followed all of the proper restaurant safety measures to hold the breakfast, many of our volunteers through the Bangor Breakfast Kiwanis, Bangor Rotary, Brewer Kiwanis and Orono-Old Town Kiwanis clubs are older and more at risk with COVID-19 so we didn’t feel it was right to possibly expose them,” said Fern. “The concert is also a hub where everyone congregates along the waterfront so cancelling it will help spread out fireworks spectators.”

For the parade, several structural changes are planned to maximize social distancing for both spectators and parade units. According Doug Damon, the organization’s parade chair, the 4th of July Corp. will also gain feedback from Maine’s Bicentennial Parade that will be held nearly three weeks earlier on August 15.

“Our parade is waiting in the wings where we can organize it quickly once we’re sure that September will work without complications or with any changes based on any feedback we get from Maine’s Bicentennial Parade happening in Lewiston/Auburn,” said Damon. “The feedback will be used and considered in our planning phase for the parade.”

Damon added that measures like unit distancing and interpersonal distancing within the units themselves are such factors that will be taken into consideration, and the roughly two-mile parade route offers ample opportunity to do that.

“Our planning will include social distancing with the spectators as well,” he said. “There’s always a lot of room along the parade route for people to spread out.”

The 40th Annual Walter Hunt Memorial 3-K Race will also not be held July 4, and organizers of that event are seeking guidance of whether the footrace can be moved to September as well. Bangor’s Labor Day race is still scheduled for the holiday on Monday, Sept. 7.

While the postponement may be disheartening for those who were looking forward to it on Independence Day itself, Fern said the board had to ultimately choose between postponement or cancelling it altogether in the footsteps of the Maine Lobster Festival and other annual events held throughout the state. He said the decision came down to having an event everyone could look forward to after suffering such isolation during the past two months.

“The COVID-19 situation won’t go away entirely by then, but hopefully we’ll emerge from the summer in a better place than we are now. More people will be working, school will be back in session and Maine will return to some sort of normalcy,” he said. “I think we felt our fellow citizens in Maine and more importantly the greater Bangor area deserve some sort of celebration for the fight we’ve all gone through. We’ll be celebrating our newly won independence.”

The organization has set a deadline of Aug. 20 to announce any future cancellation or postponement beyond the Sept. 5, 2020 date. 

Last modified on Wednesday, 13 May 2020 08:55

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