The town of Bayfield might have canceled its Fourth of July Parade, but town residents aren’t having it: A citizen-led effort to organize a parade has drawn about 600 followers on Facebook.
The town canceled its parade in May because of concerns about coronavirus transmission among attendees. Although coronavirus concerns continue, parade organizers are trying to keep the family-friendly Independence Day celebration alive, according to social media posts. Organizers do not yet have town of Bayfield permits for the event, said Katie Sickles, town manager.
“It’s so much more than just a parade. It’s about our family, it’s about our whole community. It’s one of my favorite things in the entire year,” said Alison Rhodes, an event organizer, in a video on the Bayfield 4th of July Parade Facebook group.
No event organizers immediately responded to requests for comment.
The event group was created June 11, and Rhodes said she reached out to Sickles to address permitting needs June 15.
Sickles said she sent a “special event” application to event organizers June 15, but she has not received a completed response. Normally, the completed application must be submitted 30 days before the event .
“I informed Alison if they could get the application completed with all submittals I would consider their request outside of the 30-day requirement. I did not get a response,” Sickles said. “July 4 is now 10 days from now and any submittal would be difficult to approve at this late date.”
On social media, residents have been planning for insurance and volunteer needs, portable toilets, sanitizer stations and traffic control personnel. A youth dance group wanted to join, people wanted to create floats and bring horses, and organizers wanted veterans from the Durango Veterans of Foreign Wars to lead the parade. The parade is scheduled to take place at 11 a.m. July 4.
“This is a demonstration. It’s a moving activity, where people can participate both in the demonstration parade or they can stand on the sidelines and watch,” Rhodes said in the Facebook video. “All are welcome who want to responsibly demonstrate celebrating our independence.”
This isn’t the first time the town’s parade has sparked demonstrations. A Confederate flag float in recent Independence Day parades motivated a petition and a solo protest walk in early June. Petitioners wanted the town to privatize the parade so future organizers could ban the controversial flag from the event. About 5,700 people had signed the petition as of Wednesday.
Coronavirus transmission remains a concern within La Plata County. San Juan Basin Public Health reported June 19 that six visitors tested positive for COVID-19 in local testing centers during the past three weeks.
Still, people have gathered for anti-mask and racial equality/police accountability protests. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s June 18 guidance says outdoor events can have 125 to 250 people, depending on the outbreak severity in the county, if they ensure a minimum of 28 square feet per person and take rigorous prevention measures.
Masks, which can limit viral spread, have mixed popularity in Bayfield. A recent town survey showed that 57% of resident respondents said the town should not encourage residents to wear face coverings in public.
“This is not about masks. If you want to wear them and come, do it. Smile at people that have them on,” Rhodes said in a Facebook video. “This is about getting out, celebrating our Independence Day.”