Communities adapt Fourth of July celebrations during pandemic

BARABOO, Wis. – With the holiday weekend approaching as the coronavirus continues to spread, communities are canceling parades, festivals and fireworks displays or making changes to facilitate social distancing.

In Baraboo, the annual fireworks display will still go on from a farm field near the Sauk County Festival grounds Saturday, according to Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf, but the usual festival celebrations are not.

“Things are a lot bit different this year, all across the country,” Schauf said. “There were bouncy houses, food events. It was a great opportunity for the community to come together.”

This year, however, the goal is to spread people out. According to Schauf, the fireworks will be sent higher into the sky to encourage social distancing.

“Largely, we’re hoping they will be seen throughout city with the higher display,” he said, adding that he expects more people to view them from home or in their vehicles.

“Because it’s so different from what we’ve done in the past, we don’t know what to expect, so we’ll have extra police staff on, myself included, making sure we’re all safe,” Schauf said.

In addition to potential traffic and parking issues, safety officials including Sauk County Emergency Management Director Jeff Jelinek want to highlight the importance of social distancing, especially with an influx of people to the county for fireworks displays.

“The more individuals we get coming in, the more closely people are going to be in proximity, the less social distancing that can happen, then the potential, No. 1, for the spread of COVID, but then No. 2, the safety of individuals, especially if people are starting to do their own fireworks displays and there’s a bunch of people around,” Jelinek said. “The potential is there for some serious injuries, and we want to stay away from that.”

Jelinek said it comes down to common sense.

“Social distancing is so important, wearing masks, avoiding large groups — things we’ve been hearing for the last four or five months, we really need to practice that again this week,” he said.

“By making a few modifications, we hope we can still have a little touch of reality or a little touch of what we’re familiar with and a little bit of hope for our communities,” Schauf said.

Other communities, including the Wisconsin Dells, Mineral Point and Monroe are still holding displays, while others such as Janesville have postponed their shows. This article shows a compiled list of community celebrations this year.