Belhaven Fourth of July festivities still on

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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BELHAVEN — As towns throughout North Carolina weigh whether or not to cancel or postpone summer events because of the COVID-19 virus, the Belhaven Board of Aldermen voted 4-1 Monday night to press on with the town’s 2020 Fourth of July celebration, while still keeping public health in mind.

This year marks the 78th year of Independence Day festivities in Belhaven, which have grown from humble origins to be the town’s biggest and most visited event of the year. However, with the uncertainty of how long COVID-19 will linger into the summer, the town is taking the additional step of forming a safety committee to help plan this year’s celebration.

“By the end of this week, we will have identified the members of that safety committee to put together a plan for how we approach the fourth of July,” Belhaven Town Manager Lynn Davis said. “It’s a multi-day event, and fireworks are just a piece of it.”

Once the committee is assembled, the group will look at every aspect of the event, from the parade and street dance to the Miss Independence Pageant. Working with the Belhaven Celebrations Committee, the goal is to maintain these old favorites, all while protecting public safety.

“We will likely see more changes to the pageant than any other piece of the celebration, because that is the lone event that is held inside, and it’s typically held with a full house,” Davis said. “The recommendations and suggestions talk about indoor and outdoor events, so that’s one of the areas where we’ll be getting creative.”

Davis says the council’s decision Monday was based on the current downward trend of COVID-19 cases. If that situation changes between now and the Fourth of July, however, there’s still time to revisit the issue. But for now, it’s game on.

“The good takeaway is the show will go on,” Davis said. “That’s the glimmer of hope there.“

While the decision Monday to continue planning for the festivities was split, Davis says it was not contentious. The dissenting member of the council, Brenda Cherry, works as a nurse and had some reservations about safeguards being in place for such a large gathering.

“She expressed some concerns that this is not going away as quickly as people are hoping,” Davis said. “She did, however, say that the formation of a safety committee to develop a plan for how we move forward with the Fourth of July, would make more sense to her. That was the agreement that was made.”

Cherry could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Mayor Pro Tem Ricky Radcliffe, one of the four who voted in favor of moving on with the celebration, feels confident that the town can put on a fun, safe event.

“I personally feel like it’s time for everybody to get out of their house and get back to normal,” Radcliffe said. “The Fourth of July celebration has meant a lot to us over the years, and we’ve already got fireworks in the budget. I feel like there’s certain things we can do to make it safer.”

“This will be our 78th consecutive Fourth of July Celebration for Belhaven,” Davis added. “I think when you have an event that has that type of longevity, you owe it to your community to do everything you can to make it a safe, fun, family event for everybody involved.”