The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has taken out this year's traditional July 4 celebration in Upper Arlington, but organizers of the community's signature event plan to stage a scaled-down parade.

For 86 consecutive years, the Upper Arlington Civic Association has organized and sponsored the celebration.

It appeared as if that string would be snapped after the UACA and Upper Arlington city officials announced May 8 that the 2020 celebration would be canceled because of public health and safety concerns related to the pandemic.

But UACA President Brent Theaker said organization officials were brainstorming for "some type of celebration" July 4 "to keep the community together."

There will be no Party in the Park and no fireworks at Northam Park, but there will be a parade.

It will be devoid of the typical assortment of neighborhood and community organization floats and walkers won't be permitted.

However, the procession will feature representatives of Upper Arlington's police and fire divisions, military divisions, City Council, the Upper Arlington Alumni Association, the UACA and teachers recognized this year with the annual Golden Apple Awards.

It also will include parade mainstay "The Spirit of '76," a group dressed in Colonial period costumes to re-enact Archibald Willard's painting of musicians marching on a Revolutionary War battlefield.

"It's going to be a very scaled-back parade," Stacy McIntire said. "It's vehicles only."

McIntire and her husband, Brandon, are the UACA's 2020 Fourth of July Committee general chairs.

In another twist to the event, the parade will follow more than one route.

Rather than start at the intersection of Northwest Boulevard and Zollinger Road and proceed down Northwest Boulevard, as is tradition, there will be an Independence Route and a Freedom Route that will send the parade through various neighborhoods starting at 9 a.m.

Specific route configurations will be announced by the end of June on the UACA's social media accounts and its website, uaca.org.

"The traditional route was two miles," McIntire said. "Now, with the two routes, it's going to have about 25 (total) miles of coverage.

"We've made sure to hit every quadrant of the city with those parade routes."

Once both routes are completed, they will merge at the Kingsdale Shopping Center for the United Route, which will proceed down the traditional path of Northwest Boulevard.

"We're calling this a 'Front Porch Parade' and encouraging people to view it from their porches or front yards and in small groups, adhering to the state's social-distancing and small-gathering guidelines," McIntire said.

Because roads will not be closed for the Front Porch Parade, participating vehicles will move at a faster-than-normal pace and spectators should stay out of the streets, McIntire said.

Additionally, she said spectators should refrain from throwing or handing objects to people taking part in the parade.

There will be no grand marshal for the parade, but the UACA will seek to recognize "essential workers" who have provided services to the community throughout the pandemic, as well as the Upper Arlington High School class of 2020.

The parade's theme is "United We Roar."

"We wanted to still emphasize the importance of community and that we're in this together," McIntire said.

Residents are asked to incorporate the theme into a new decorating challenge in which residents can decorate their homes, yards and driveways for chances to win gift cards and other prizes. Information about the decorating challenge is available on the UACA's website.

Through the UACA website, residents also can purchase wake-up calls and order a July 4 star or golden bear to be painted on their driveways.

"You can get a star or golden bear, or both," McIntire said. "It's $50 for a star, $100 for a bear and $200 for three stars and a bear.

"That money all goes to the UACA," she said. "The deadline for ordering a star or bear is (Monday,) June 15."

City Manager Steve Schoeny said the city supports the UACA's modified celebration. He said organizers "have been very thoughtful and quick to adapt as state and local health department guidelines have evolved."

"As the Fourth of July approaches, we encourage residents to be mindful of common-sense social-distancing guidelines," Schoeny said. "If you plan to watch the parade and you don't live on the parade route, stay on the sidewalk and keep your distance from other groups.

"If you are planning backyard barbecues or other celebrations that day, we encourage residents to limit these activities to their families. If you don't feel well, stay home."

Schoeny noted that residents should be aware that, for health and safety reasons, the city will not issue block-party permits "since these activities typically bring large groups of neighbors together."

McIntire said despite the changes to this year's celebration, the UACA hopes to bring "some form of normalcy" and unity to the community by holding the parade.

"That's what the civic association is all about -- bringing the community together," she said. "We just tried to do the best we could with what we have.

"We felt this was a great opportunity to showcase the unity that we do have in this community. I think, now more than ever, it's important to show we are united and support one another."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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