Westerville has many traditions that embrace its red, white and blue spirit. It is one of the many characteristics I love about this community.
The Field of Heroes, the community-sponsored Honor Flights and the military banners in Uptown in May and November help us to remember and honor Westerville sons and daughters who serve or have served. But there's something special about Westerville around Independence Day.
The Fourth of July in our community is marked by one of central Ohio's most popular Independence Day parades and capped at dusk by a world-class fireworks display. In recent years, free concerts and family activities have added to the fun, offering a central location to experience music, food and entertainment all day.
The Rotary Club of Westerville has excelled in its role of producing the Fourth of July celebration. The city funds the fireworks and provides in-kind support for public safety, but the club makes the heavy lift of organizing, seeking sponsors and managing the host of events.
My first phone calls with Rotary organizers this spring were optimistic. Surely by July we'll all be back together. Surely, by then, we can resume our normal lives.
But the highly contagious coronavirus has not cooperated.
So on May 8, the city of Westerville accepted the recommendation of the Central Ohio Mayors and Managers Association -- an organization of 19 cities within the Columbus region -- and the 17-member Franklin County Township Association in recommending large-scale, community-sponsored Fourth of July events be canceled or postponed until later this year.
In Westerville, this means our events are canceled and fireworks are postponed. The same can be said for nearly all other communities in central Ohio.
This coordination is similar to Beggars' Night, when communities surrounding Columbus cooperate to schedule trick-or-treating days and times for regional uniformity.
There were many decision points to consider, but above all of them was public safety. Public health experts and the state of Ohio have not lifted the prohibition on large gatherings and there is no indication that it will be lifted by early July.
If Westerville hosted events where safe space between people could not be managed, people could be exposed to increased risk of contagion. That's simply not an acceptable risk for our community.
Safety is undeniably the "why," and we recognize many are concerned with the "when." An early May announcement took into consideration the forecast of public health experts as well as factors related to staging events of this magnitude.
That alone requires many months of planning and advance expenditures to secure logistics, finalize contracts and frankly, spend the money.
Ultimately, another factor was the fiscal responsibility to incur expenditures for events that are in question during this time of uncertainty.
But in recognition of our intrinsic need to celebrate our national independence, we are working on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood plan to recognize the holiday while keeping people safely distanced.
You will see us in your neighborhoods July 4, doing what we can to let you know the holiday's meaning and importance is not lost.
And fireworks will fly again. Some communities in the region are looking at expanded Labor Day weekend activities or fall festivals. Some are seeking a New Year's Eve celebration to say "goodbye" to an already challenging 2020 and usher in 2021 with hope.
We have not made that decision yet, but we promise to pair that opportunity with the time it is safe to return to public spaces in groups.
Until that time, stay well and safe.
Perhaps ponder the resiliency of our nation throughout history, and trust in a day when we will again celebrate in communal fashion what makes us American and what makes us Westerville.
Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth submitted the City Notes column.