After consulting with the Greenville City Council at their special meeting Monday, Mayor David Dreiling made the decision to postpone the Independence Day Bottle Rocket Bash to a later date, and cancel this year’s Park Street Fourth of July Parade.
The decisions were made after Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest executive order Friday, which prohibits outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people unless the mayor of the city in which the event is held approves the gathering. And, that approval can be made with or without additional precautions to help limit the public’s potential exposure to COVID-19.
At Monday’s special meeting, the mayor first listened to each member of the city council as they shared their thoughts on the matter.
“Whether you believe that COVID-19 is fake news or that it’s the worst thing in the world ... it’s inconvenient and it’s an illness,” Mayor Pro Tem Jerry Ransom said. “I personally know two people who have had the disease, so I stand with the medical community … and I agree with social distancing and that people should mask up.
“While I believe that we need to find a balance protecting between public health and maintaining the economy, the Fourth of July is not about the economy,” Ransom continued. “The importance of the celebration and tradition pales in comparison to peoples’ health.
“I don’t want to risk getting even one person infected, so even though it’s a patriotic event, I think we should postpone it,” Ransom said about the planned fireworks show.
While alternate dates for the Bottle Rocket Bash will ultimately depend on the governor’s decisions in the coming months, the council discussed rescheduling the fireworks show for Labor Day or Veterans Day, with council members Ransom and John Turner speaking in favor having it on Veterans Day.
While all the council members voiced support for postponing the fireworks show, the question of canceling the Park Street Fourth of July Parade proved more contentious, especially since the parade is planned by a private organization, the Park Street Historical Society.
“The firework show is a city event, but the parade is different because it’s a private event put on by individual property owners,” Councilman Brent Money said. “The people in the parade are mostly riding in antique cars and Jeeps, and a lot of people watching it are sitting in their front yards … so I think it’s a bad idea for the government to tell families what they can do.
“There are ways that people can enjoy this separately and everyone can have their own rules in their own yard,” Money continued.
After listening to the council members give their opinions, the mayor said before announcing his decision, “A large amount of the new cases we have are people in the age 31-49 group, which tells me we’ve got a lot of people who have to get to work so they can get a paycheck and take care of their families.
“If we have this, then we increase the possibility that some of those people will become infected and not be able to work and provide for their families,” Dreiling continued. “The disease causes a lot of suffering … so I think having the fireworks and parade now would not be a safe or smart thing.”
After the cancelation of the parade, Derek Price with the Park Street Historical Association released the following statement:
“While we would have loved to hold a Fourth of July parade with public health precautions in place, we also understand the reality of increasing infection and hospitality rates in Hunt County,” Price wrote. “We look forward to holding a big parade in celebration of freedom next year.
“Despite the cancellation of this year's parade, we encourage all Park Street residents to display banners, flags and other forms of patriotic decor on the Fourth of July,” Price added.