The Ashton Chamber of Commerce has cancelled its annual Fourth of July parade due to the city council’s COVID-19 concerns.
The decision comes after the Ashton City Council declined to allow the chamber to use its streets, sidewalks or parks for the event that draws thousands of people to the community every year. The city also declined to provide insurance for the annual fireworks display.
“We, as the Ashton Area Chamber of Commerce, are sad about COVID-19 and are disappointed that we won’t be able to host our annual festivities for Ashton’s celebration of Independence Day,” wrote Rachel Hatton on behalf of the chamber. “However, we will honor the wishes of the City of Ashton and will not be having a parade, activities in the City Park, or a fireworks show. We wish for everyone to enjoy their families during the summer.”
The city council made the decision during its May 13 city council meeting where it directed City Clerk Cathy Stegelmeier to write to the chamber detailing the city’s concerns.
“At the time Rexburg wasn’t having their parade. Last year, we had 7,000 people attend the parade. Our town is only 1,200,” Stegelmeier said. “We didn’t think our town could handle that because of COVID-19. There’s no way to sanitize to keep everybody at social distances.”
Rexburg has since changed its mind about holding its Fourth of July and is implementing various conditions such as extending the parade by five blocks. Chamber CEO Christopher Mann said that doing so allows for more open space for visitors to sit farther apart from each other. The Rexburg Chamber is also not allowing visitors to reserve a place to sit as has been done in recent years.
While Rexburg will hold its parade, it is cancelling its annual Independence Day Celebration at Porter Park. Whether or not the city will hold its annual Main Street Mile Family Fun Run is still up in the air.
Stegelmeier said it’s impossible for Ashton to extend its parade like Rexburg is.
“There’s no good way to lengthen out our parade. We don’t have sidewalks in front of people’s homes. We have a different city,” she said.
Ashton Mayor Tom Mattingly said that it would be impossible to keep parade visitors at a social distance.
“There’s no way to keep a six-foot distance with the people who come to the parade,” he said.
Mattingly has heard many pro and con discussions about the cancellation of the parade.
“There’s been a lot of negative feedback which I fully expected. There’s been a lot of good feedback from people saying ‘We are grateful and thankful that you did cancel that.’ I know people say, ‘If they don’t want to come to the parade, they don’t have to,’” he said.
The main reason to cancel the parade is to keep everybody safe, Mattingly said.
“You don’t know who has it, and who doesn’t. A lot of the people that will be here are from highly infected areas like Salt Lake and the Boise area. They all have cabins up here,” he said.
The council still hopes that families will get together to celebrate the nation’s independence, Stegelmeier said.
“We all love our country and want everybody to celebrate. (Residents) still have their families and can still have their Fourth of July celebrations,” she said.
Hatton also encouraged Ashton residents to spend time with their loved ones.
“We wish for everyone to enjoy their families during the summer. We encourage everyone to please support our Ashton businesses this summer, as they need our support more than ever right now. Also, we would like to send our ‘Congratulations’ to the 2020 graduates at North Fremont High School. We wish all of you the best!”
The city council meets again at 7 p.m., Wednesday, June 10, at city hall. For more information call 208-652-3987.