Fourth fizzles under COVID concerns

Staff Written Community, Featured

By Tia Lynn Ivey

managing editor 

Usually, there is no shortage of patriotic celebrations for Independence Day in Morgan County, but this is not a usual year. The fireworks have fizzled out this year. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, all of the Morgan County’s annual Fourth of July celebrations have been cancelled. For some, it’s the first cancellation in more than 50 years. 

Every year since 1976, The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center hosts a lavish lawn party held every July 3, to celebrate Independence Day, featuring patriotic music, festive picnic food, and guests donned in red, white, and blue. Much to the dismay of the cultural center leaders, the annual beloved event had to be cancelled since Georgia Governor Brian Kemp banned all gatherings over 50 through July 15. 

“This will be the first time ever in the history of the cultural center that we have cancelled our event,” said Kim Brown, director of the cultural center. “We are all sad that we are unable to do it, but we are following the governor’s executive order, and we want our community to be safe and healthy so we can come back and open to our constituency soon. We are doing everything we can to support that. Please stay safe, healthy and enjoy your families over this Independence Day holiday. We look forward to seeing you soon.”

Also cancelled, is the annual nighttime Fireworks display at Bill Wood Park in Madison, also usually held on July 3 before Independence Day. The City of Madison usually purchases the fireworks and the Madison Fire Department sets them off, while the Morgan County Recreation Department hosts the event in the park, which usually features food, bouncy houses, and face-painting as families huddle together with lawn chairs to watch fireworks light up the night sky. 

“We aren’t doing it this year,” said Drew Torok, assistant director of Morgan County Parks and Recreation department. “Since there are no fireworks this year, there’s really no finale for people to show up and have an event around,” explained Torok. 

The annual Bostwick Fourth of July BBQ, a tradition running more than 50 years, has also been cancelled due to concerns over the coronavirus. Last year more than 900 people showed up at Riden Grove in Downtown Bostwick for the Bostwick BBQ Fourth of July celebration, raising nearly $8,000 for the Bostwick volunteer fire department and masonic lodge. Attendees celebrate America’s Independence Day while chowing down on Bostwick’s best BBQ dishes. 

“This event has been going on all my life,” said David Nunn, a lifelong Bostwick resident who usually helps organize the event. “It’s a true community event. Local Bostwick people come together to cook, clean, setup, and serve every year and people truly enjoy it.”

Unrelated to coronavirus pandemic, the annual Buckhead celebration was axed in 2019, also breaking a 50-year tradition.  The Buckhead Fourth of July barbecue and fireworks fundraiser used to draw thousands of attendees each year. But several challenges prompted local officials to cancel the event. The event ceased being feasible due to a lack of volunteers in the fire department as well as the property used to park cars near downtown Buckhead was being developed. 

Rutledge never had an official Fourth of July Celebration, but usually holds the Summer Concert Series each Friday night at the Gazebo in Rutledge’s City Park. The Friday before Fourth of July became a sort of local celebration of the holiday, but that too, has been cancelled. 

The Fourth of July is usually a beloved holiday to gather as a community in celebration of our nation’s founding. To protect public health, those kind of gatherings cannot happen this year. But individuals and families can still celebrate and reflect on what Independence Day means today. We may have to celebrate in separately, but we can shared those celebrations in community. Share your pictures and stories of how you celebrated the Fourth of July with the Morgan County Citizen as an act of community celebration. Send your creative celebrations to: morgancountycitizen@gmail.com. 

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