The city of Upper Arlington announced Friday, May 8, via email the Fourth of July celebration has been canceled.
“Emotionally, this was an exceptionally hard decision,” said Steve Schoeny, Upper Arlington city manager. “The Fourth of July is a special day in UA. It provides an annual reminder of what our community is all about.
“However, as we talked through various scenarios and options with the (Upper Arlington) Civic Association, and as we considered broader impacts with our colleagues around the region and with public health officials, it became increasingly clear that proceeding with our traditional community celebrations this year would be irresponsible.”
The cancellation came the same day the Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Association (COMMA), of which Upper Arlington is a member, and the Franklin County Township Association (FCTA) jointly made the recommendation because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The UACA has organized and sponsored the celebration for 86 consecutive years.
Over the years, it’s evolved to include a parade down Northwest Boulevard and a Party in the Park event in Northam Park that’s included live music and fireworks.
"We had been talking about this, trying to come up with other plans," said Brent Theaker, UACA president. "The inevitable came through today.
"As disappointing and sad as it is, we understand. With everything that's going on, we don't want to be responsible for anything to further the pandemic or compromise the safety of our community."
Theaker said plans for the annual Party in the Park and fireworks on July 4 have been scrapped.
He said the UACA is working with its fireworks vendor and the city to see if a display might be feasible at some point later this year.
As for July 4, Theaker said, "We are trying to do some type of celebration that day. Logistics and ideas are still coming forward with the city.
"We are going to try to do something to try to keep the community together and know that we are all in this together."
“We will continue working with the (UACA) and the community at large to find ways to celebrate our nation and Upper Arlington,” Schoeny said. “In the meantime, we ask our residents for their patience and understanding and to continue to unite with us in our efforts to safely navigate the pandemic.
“Our sacrifices now will bring us back together that much sooner.”
Dave Collinsworth, Westerville city manager and COMMA chair, said the decision was made with safety in mind.
“The overarching priority guiding our decision is the health and welfare of our residents and communities,” he said. “The COMMA/FCTA partnership’s recommendation is similar to how central Ohio communities have worked together for years under MORPC’s leadership to manage Beggars' Night recommendations.”
COMMA and FCTA members wanted unified action because municipalities and townships that didn’t cancel would risk having larger crowds than normal.
“We all agree that it is in our region’s best interests if we are united in this unfortunate but appropriate decision,” said Chet Chaney, Perry Township trustee and president of the FCTA. “This policy recommendation supports the foundation of good public health policy and provides clarity regarding traditional community event planning for this very special and patriotic holiday.”
The move followed the announcement May 7 that Red, White & Boom was canceled and an alternate celebration was being planned.
Schoeny said COMMA members could not foresee the state’s social-distancing requirements being reduced enough by early July to allow for the type of large gatherings that occur during Independence Day celebrations.