The COVID-19 pandemic has scuttled plans for many July Fourth celebrations across the North Olympic Peninsula but communities have made plans to keep Independence Day special.
Fireworks are planned in both Port Angeles and Forks although neither show is to be watched close-up.
The Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce urges residents to watch from their yards or online. It said it will add a link to its website at www.portangeles.org by Saturday.
Forks officials plan to create a louder, more spectacular fireworks display than usual so that can be seen from all over town.
The parade in that city, usually a culmination of five days of celebration and a star attraction for residents of Clallam and Jefferson counties, as well as one generally held in Port Angeles, cannot be held because of social distancing guidelines.
But in Forks, fireworks will punctuate the day’s activities by lighting up the sky more magnificently than ever, event organizers said.
The access road leading to where the fireworks will be set off will be blocked in keeping with preventing people from congregating, City Attorney-Planner Rod Fleck said Thursday.
In a non-COVID world, onlookers could be within 200 feet of non-COVID-year pyrotechnic displays, but managers were limited to using 3-inch shells, July Fourth committee President Mark Soderlind said.
This year, they will shoot off 4-inch shells, Soderlind said, and could even set off 5-inch shells, which are shot off in Clallam Bay, the only place on the Peninsula where fireworks of that magnitude are employed.
“We believe folks will be able to step out from their yard and see them,” Fleck predicted.
Most other Forks scheduled activities have been cancelled, from the Lions Club Salmon Bake to the demolition derby although a parade float, Hoh and Quileute tribal canoes and a fire engine will be available for walk- and drive-by enjoyment outside the Rainforest Arts Center.
Featured at the center is Soderlind’s float, themed E Pluribus Unum — “out of many, one,” the United States’ motto.
“We are so divided anymore, we tried to think of something to pull us all together,” Soderlind said Thursday.
Soderlind said as of Thursday it was unknown if some events would still occur, such as the horseshoe competition and a car show, but a final schedule is promised to be on the Forks Chamber of Commerce site at tinyurl.com/PDN-ForksChamber.
No fireworks are planned in Sequim but city officials are closing West Washington Street between Sequim and Second avenues will be closed to traffic from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. today and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday to allow businesses to expand onto the sidewalk and provide additional space for customers to practice social distancing while shopping.
Sequim council members have discussed possibly having a drone show in 2021.
Heroes Appreciation Wall
In Port Angeles will be a never-before-seen addition: a Heroes Appreciation Wall in front of the shuttered Lincoln Theater at 132 E. First St.
The evening will start at 8 p.m. with a live-streamed two-hour virtual concert by Black Diamond Junction, said Leslie Robertson, chamber events coordinator.
At about 10:15 p.m., the annual fireworks show will begin, accompanied by music played on local radio station KONP 101.7 FM and 1450 AM.
“The chamber is encouraging local residents to plan family front- and backyard celebrations that can incorporate both the online live concert and the fireworks show,” Robertson said.
The wall will be up throughout the Fourth of July weekend for community members to express thanks to anyone or any organization that has made a positive difference in their lives through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Also on Saturday, the Port Angeles Yacht Club will host a boat parade around the Port Angeles Harbor.
The parade will start at 11 a.m. in the harbor in front of the yacht club at 1305 Marine Drive. It will sail along the waterfront, pass by the Black Ball Ferry Line terminal and circle near Hollywood Beach before crossing over toward the Coast Guard station and along Ediz Hook and heading back to the marina. This route could be changed in bad weather.
Airplanes are scheduled to fly overhead. These will include a Cub Piper and a biplane.
Masks will be required in public places to guard against the spread of highly contagious COVID-19 in Port Angeles, Forks and Sequim.
But some people in Forks dispute the need for face masks, Soderlind said.
“We can’t agree on that either,” he lamented.
“Some people think it’s all just a hoax.”
Soderlind said COVID-19 health requirements have been so ever-present that city officials have been far more involved in planning the day’s activities than usual.
“We are out of the fight this year,” he said
For his part, Soderlind will miss the demolition derby, which usually draws 3,000 spectators.
Unlike other derbies, a cement floor is used because of the wet weather.
Drivers are not so used to that.
“It makes the cars go so fast they literally destroy themselves,” Soderlind said.
“They leave Forks with the title left in the wrecking yard,” he quipped.
Fleck said some of the cancelled events may see life Aug. 8, the tentative date for West Enders to celebrate Forks’ 75th birthday.
Consumer fireworks are permitted with restrictions only in unincorporated areas of Clallam County and Forks.
Executive Editor Leah Leach contributed to this story.
Terry Ward, publisher of the Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum, serves on the Port Angeles Chamber of Commerce board of directors.