COVID-19 fizzles BP’s Fourth plans
There will be no public Fourth of July celebration in Blooming Prairie this summer.
BP's Fourth of July committee and the executive board of the Blooming Prairie Area Chamber of Commerce voted unanimously last week to cancel the 2020 summer celebration because of the threat of the coronavirus.
The fireworks part of the celebration will be saved and is planned for the Fourth of July evening. People will be able to view the fireworks from their yards or from their cars.
Reaction to the decision was unified with committee members at first trying to salvage the celebration by scaling it down but then agreeing that it was best to cancel to protect everyone's health and safety.
Word of the decision spread rapidly on Facebook last Wednesday, May 6, minutes after the committees disbanded for the moment. Chamber President Dan Peach said the decision reached over 48,000 persons via Facebook.
"There were some negative comments, but the majority of people understand why we cannot have over 20,000 people in town during this pandemic," observed Becky Noble, executive director of the BP Chamber. “Maybe people will see what it is like to not have this celebration and there will be more support next year," she hopes.
The Times contacted some of the committee members and business people to attempt to find out reactions of pulling the plug on what would have been the 46th annual celebration.
"It was not the easiest decision to make," said parade chair Karen Fouarge. She has held that position for the past 10 years and had served notice that this would be her last year as parade chair.
"I look at the cancellation with a lot of mixed emotions," said Fouarge.
"July 4th has always been a day of having fun and being able to see and talk with people you haven't seen for awhile," Fouarge said.
"It's super disappointing,' said Miranda Carey, Chamber vice president. "It is understandable and I don't know what else we could do," she said. Carey coordinated the ZOOM meeting.
"It's sad but there were just too many unanswered variables with the virus," remarked Mayor Curt Esplan. "It's been a good way to show off BP and it's all done by volunteers who invest lots of time to plan the many events associated with the Fourth," Esplan said.
Former Mayor H. Peterson said he knows making the decision was a tough one but the right thing to do. "We're in this virus thing for the long haul," Peterson said. He said the Fourth of July celebration "has pulled us all together and we will all have to pull together to beat this virus thing."
Linda Klemmensen, business woman and member of the chamber executive board, was part of the decision making process. "We were concerned about drawing a big crowd and putting our town in jeopardy," she commented.
The annual Fourth of July celebration brought lots of visitors "to our lovely town" and it was like coming home for many, she pointed out.
Nick Schiefert, owner of the Blooming Prairie Dairy Queen, believes it is better to be safe rather than go ahead and be the hub of he sickness by not calling off the celebration.
He said there are two sides about the celebration. "Some don't care for it and leave town and others have family get-togethers and reunions over the Fourth," Schiefert related.
Schiefert has been chair of the celebration for many years and stepped back after last year.
"Some things are just out of our control," said Chamber executive committee member Darrell Hansen. "I think the committees made the right call for everyone's safety," he continued.
"Blooming Prairie's Fourth of July celebration brings thousands of friends and family from all directions to our great community," Hansen said.
Police Chief Greg Skillestad agrees with most that was unfortunate that the celebration was cancelled. "Everybody likes to have a party but for everyone's health and safety, this was the right thing to do," he said in approving the decision.
"People have to be grateful for their health and it's best to error on the safe side," Skillestad mentioned.
Even without a public celebration, Skillestad believes people will be able to have house parties and celebrate.
People love a parade, says Skillestad. "It's been a family thing for those growing up," he said.
Judy Esplan, treasurer for the Fourth of July celebration for many years, said the group discussed several options trying to save the celebration for the summer. "Our neighbors were cancelling their summer events and we just thought we had no other choice," said Esplan.
"We will try to bring back the Fourth celebration bigger and better for next year," Esplan promised.
The Blooming Prairie Fourth events have been spanning generations of people, our kids and their kids," Esplan said.
Chamber executive board member Keith Holman says he "feels bad" about the cancellation but believes it was the right decision.
Pastor Heidi Heimgartner of First Lutheran Church thanked the volunteers and committee members for their hard work toward having successful celebrations in the past.
"It is important for us as a community to acknowledge the hardship pandemic causes our business owners and organizations, and the disappointment of those who love to celebrate. Let's be extra kind to our neighbors and friends who are working through this situation."
Heimgartner said her family is already generating creative ideas to celebrate Independence Day 2020, including watching old home movies of the parade. "I've got recipes for corn dogs and cheese curds, and our chairs will be out for the fireworks," promised Heimgartner.
"Our kids' best memories of summer come on July 4," says Heimgartner.
"Blooming Prairie is where my heart is, and I believe that's true for you, too. I am certainly thankful for our freedoms in the United States. I want every hope and dream to continue. God bless America, land that I love."
Superintendent Chris Staloch says the Fourth of July events bring people to the community, which provides an economic benefit, and it brings people together, which provides our community with a sense of unity.
"I look forward to the day that we all come together and celebrate again," Staloch continued.
Past Chamber president Greg Johnson said he is disappointed with the Fourth of July celebration being cancelled but says it was necessary.