Jeff Linville | The News
Two out of three won’t be bad for a sizzling Fourth of July in Mount Airy, given the chilling effect the coronavirus has had on public gatherings in recent months.
While an annual July 4 parade has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, a holiday fireworks show is scheduled next Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Park — as usual — along with another traditional event locally, a reading of the Declaration of Independence.
The public recitation of that historic document penned by Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, which sparked the Revolutionary War leading to America’s independence, will take place Saturday morning in the courtyard of Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.
Fireworks ‘Something uplifting’
Vehicles will be admitted to Veterans Memorial Park on West Lebanon Street for the fireworks show beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.
That event is spearheaded by the two Rotary Clubs in Mount Airy in conjunction with local American Legion Post 123, and Eagle Carports will be playing a key sponsorship role this year.
Due to guidelines prescribed by the N.C. Department of Public Health, there will be no food vendors present and attendees are to be guided to parking spaces in accordance with distancing requirements suggested by law enforcement officials.
“We knew that large gatherings were not allowed under the governor’s mandate,” said Bob Meinecke, a member of the Rotary Club of Mount Airy, who is the coordinator of the fireworks show also involving the Surry Sunrise Rotary Club.
Meinecke added Saturday that the Mount Airy Police Department has been working with local churches recently on ways to hold services, which includes attendees sitting in their vehicles. So he approached Police Chief Dale Watson and Capt. Barry VanHoy about a similar setup for the fireworks event.
“And they totally agreed,” Meinecke said. “They got on board very quickly.”
Attendees at the fireworks show inside the park will be required to either stay in or immediately around their vehicles for public protection in light of COVID-19 concerns.
Meanwhile, the community can tune in to local AM radio station WSYD at 1300 on the dial or online at wsyd1300.com to hear patriotic music played during the fireworks display that will start around 9 p.m.
With all of the restrictions area residents have had to deal with during the pandemic, including the cancellation of Mount Airy’s July 4 parade, organizers think the fireworks show will provide a welcome diversion, Meinecke says.
“We really felt that something uplifting and patriotic would be a wonderful way to celebrate.”
Meinecke believes a festive atmosphere will be achieved even with the coronavirus rules in place to ensure everyone’s safety. “We hope we can all come together as a community to celebrate the Fourth of July in unity.”
He said much credit is due Eagle Carports, which is donating $10,000 to present the fireworks show.
Eric Cockerham, dealer services manager for Eagle Carports, said Saturday that it is underwriting the event through its role as a locally owned, family company.
“They just want to help out in the community,” Cockerham said of such efforts.
“It’s always been a staple in Surry County,” he said of the July 4 fireworks, which Eagle Carports officials endeavored to continue even with the pandemic.
“They just wanted to make sure the community had a fireworks show this year,” Cockerham said.
A $5 admission charge will be collected for every vehicle that actually enters Veterans Memorial Park by members of the facility’s governing board.
Meinecke pointed out that the American Legion usually provides food-vending services for the fireworks event, from which profits are used to support many efforts on behalf of veterans.
With the food-sales component unavailable this year, the admission charge will help offset the loss of those proceeds, he said.
The reading of the Declaration of Independence is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday outside Mount Airy Museum of Regional History at 301 N Main St. downtown.
“We couldn’t stand the idea of not having anything downtown to celebrate Independence Day,” Kate Rauhauser-Smith, museum visitors services manager, explained Saturday.
”There was no way to safely have the parade, but we felt we could do the reading of the Declaration of Independence as we’ve done for several years now,” Rauhauser-Smith added.
Brack and Angela Llewellyn, of the local Nonesuch Players group, will present the dramatic reading in costume on Independence Day as they did last year.
The performance, limited to just the Llewellyns as a cautionary measure, will be live-streamed on the museum’s Facebook page.
Mayor David Rowe is scheduled to be included among a limited number of people allowed in the courtyard on a first-come, first-served basis, where social distancing will be observed.
The Llewellyns will use a small sound system so folks also should be able to hear and watch from the sidewalk, Rauhauser-Smith mentioned.
Face coverings will be required for those in the courtyard.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.