Unless science makes some bold and amazing discovery about COVID-19, this microscopic virus will go down as nothing more than a deadly blight on contemporary history. It is estimated that 10 million people worldwide have now gotten it and more than 500,000 have died as a result, including nearly 130,000 in the United States.
Now, add one more thing to the long list of grievances we have with this modern day plague. It has upended planned celebrations of the Fourth of July in Colorado and so many other pockets of the country.
In Pueblo, the virus has forced the city to take a pass on the summer’s biggest, most anticipated and economic shot-in-the-arm holiday, the Fourth of July. “They tout it as the largest (fireworks show) in southern Colorado,” said Pueblo Fire Department spokesman, Captain Woody Percival. But this year, said the Pueblo native and 26-year veteran of the city’s fire department, the city’s biggest outdoor tourist attraction and site of the pyrotechnique extravaganza, the River Walk, is going dark.
The River Walk fireworks show is the culmination of a day long holiday celebration in Pueblo. It begins with thousands of people flooding the Union Avenue business district. The street is filled with people sampling the food, listening to music and just enjoying the atmosphere. There will still be Union Avenue crowds, though perhaps smaller, but without the annual pyrotechnics, the Fourth just won’t be the same.
It is not just the coronavirus and the accompanying social distancing that made cancelling the city’s holiday plans an easy call, said Percival. Rain, at least in the amount that would make a fire company happy, has been rare so far this summer. Pueblo and most of southern Colorado is trapped in a protracted drought.
“Fire conditions,” he said, are at the “stage one” level. Both city and county are tinder dry as is much of the state, said Percival. Instead of focusing on the fireworks and crowd safety, the fire department will be watching “dry conditions of fuels around rivers,” and “fuel loads in people’s yards.”
Weather patterns and the coronavirus have also scotched Alamosa’s mid-summer festivities. The combination of social distancing and drought made Alamosa’s decision to redline its traditional Fourth of July parade and the Valley’s biggest fireworks show. “Our fire conditions are fairly serious,” said Alamosa City Manager Heather Brooks.
The kickoff event in Alamosa for this summertime celebration, as it is in many small towns, is often a pancake breakfast hosted by local civic groups. This year there will be no Kiwanis Club sit-down. Again, social distancing. Instead, the town’s planning a scavenger hunt, said Brooks. “It’ll allow us to have fun and practice safe social distancing.”
Cancelling both events also means a dramatic decline in what was expected to be robust foot traffic in center city. Shops and restaurants won’t get the expected holiday business. Instead, merchants will have to wait on Labor Day.
Still, Brooks is hopeful that summertime tourism and the draw of The Great Sand Dunes, just east of the town, along with the region’s remarkable natural beauty which includes the picturesque Sangre de Cristo Wildlife area will help fill the void.
It may be hard to imagine a summer in Alamosa without the Valley’s biggest firework show, said Brooks. But Alamosa, like everyone else, has to make sacrifices. “We just want the community to celebrate the Fourth,” she said. This year, the celebration will just be done a little differently.