COVID blows up city’s plans for annual fireworks show

City, Rawhide cancel Freedom Celebration and fireworks show as coronavirus continues to spread

VISALIA – Another explosion of coronavirus cases has snuffed out Visalia’s plans for a fireworks show.

On June 23, the City of Visalia and Rawhide Baseball announced their joint decision to not hold a public fireworks display on July 3 for the Fourth of July holiday.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the State of California has public health directives in place that prohibit community mass gatherings,” city manager Randy Groom said. “It’s in the best interest of our community’s health to not hold the event this year in order to prevent the further spread of disease.”

On April 6, the Visalia City Council approved funding for the event, including $17,000 in cash and $5,000 in in-kind services, such as permits, fees, police presence, etc. but could not have foreseen how long the Governor’s stay-at-home order would last. The state is only Stage 2 of California’s Resilience Roadmap and large events are not allowed until Stage 4.

“While we’re disappointed that we won’t be hosting a fireworks celebration this year, we know we’ve made the best choice for the health and well-being of our community members,” added Sam Sigal, vice president of First Pitch Entertainment, LLC, owners of the Visalia Rawhide.

The event is organized by the Minor League ball club as well as Spirit 88.9 and Momentum Broadcasting, which owns KJUG 106.7, Hitz 104.9 and My 97.5 radio stations. Having so many radio stations combine their promotional power with the baseball team brought about 1,500 people to Recreation Park for family fun activities.

Last year’s event kicked off at noon with a free swim session at the Redwood High School swimming pool, presented by Spirit 88.9. As the pool area shut down at 4 p.m., the gates to Recreation Park opened for activities including live music, deejay, inflatable games, playground, basketball courts, a skateboarding competition, and food and drink vendors. At 6 p.m., Rawhide Ballpark opened its gates to those who have a ticket to its annual Independence Celebration game featuring a celebratory fireworks show that can be seen by those at Recreation Park.

Canceling the event also means the city will lose out a massive volunteer effort to clean up Recreation Park coordinated by radio stations. In preparation for last year’s event, the group closed the park to the public a week prior to the celebration to remove hazardous materials from the park, such as needles, feces, and narcotics. Local organizations and individual volunteers were then invited to repaint, plant shrubs, and disinfect playground equipment.

The city of Visalia has assisted in funding an Independence Celebration for many years including several years with the Parks and Recreation Foundation. When they chose to no longer organize the event, the City put out a call for proposals and CASA was the successful bidder. CASA put on the event at Groppetti Stadium for two years before withdrawing from the event in 2019.

Visalians are encouraged to enjoy Independence Day safely by celebrating with members of their household and legal, safe and sane fireworks. For those who want the sparkle of a fireworks Fourth, local, nonprofit firework booths opened on June 29.

“We ask our community to ‘Celebrate Freedom Safely,’ and commit to celebrating with legal, Safe and Sane fireworks,” City of Visalia Fire Chief Dan Griswold said. “Using illegal fireworks is extremely dangerous, and has led to tragic results right here in Visalia in recent years. Citizens can report illegal fireworks by calling the City of Visalia at 513-8080.”

For tips on celebrating this Independence Day safely, information on Safe and Sane fireworks, and more, visit www.visalia.city/celebratesafely.

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