After last year’s troublesome Fourth of July celebration, which saw the near death of a minor as a result of alcohol poisoning, Silverton’s effort to create a more family-friendly environment led to zero incidents this year.
“Everything really went off without a hitch,” San Juan County Sheriff Bruce Conrad said. “It was really what it should be.”
The Silverton Fourth of July Committee was formed to help change the event. The main problem the group found was the gap of time between the parade in the morning and the launch of the fireworks in the evening.
The committee introduced two new events to give people something to do before the fireworks. A carnival after the parade featured a multitude of games and crafts, and a street dance was created to precede the fireworks show.
“We focused on giving people something to do, so it wasn’t just this Wild West attitude of it just being a drunken fest,” committee chairwoman Molly Barella said. “Nobody needs that in their town, this wild lawlessness. It’s just not right.”
In previous years, the hillside below the Christ of the Mines Shrine and a campground nearby had been filled with partiers who trashed the hill with empty alcohol bottles, marijuana and human feces. This year, law enforcement erected a barrier to prevent motorized vehicles, camping and unattended minors from using the hill.
Conrad said no arrests were made and no citations for underage drinking were given during the entirety of the celebration.
Fire chief Gilbert Archuleta returned to lead the Silverton Volunteer Fire Department’s fireworks display, after the department opted out of participating last year.
“It was an excellent, excellent show,” Silverton Chamber of Commerce board member Pete Maisel said. “Probably one of the best shows Silverton’s had.”
The one hiccup of the celebration was the traffic. The Colorado Department of Transportation had a flagger to help usher people out of town after the firework’s but the agency didn’t properly plan for the abundance of visitors who arrived earlier in the day.
Conrad said he heard reports of people sitting through seven 20-minute cycles at a construction-zone stoplight before entering town and that traffic was backed up to Molas Lake.
The town received fewer visitors than last year, but that wasn’t a detriment to the event’s success. Hotels and restaurants were busy, and the smaller crowd was much easier to handle, Conrad said.
“I’ve heard nothing but amazing things from all locals about how much better this Fourth of July was,” Conrad said. “I think we’re going to be on this track for the next few years.”