Uncle Sam enjoys a good summer bash and the city of New Market certainly knows how to throw one - complete with a parade and fireworks.
That is why the members of the New Market Celebration Committee have worked tirelessly this year ensure its highly popular Fourth of July celebration could be held within the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic guidelines currently in place in Iowa.
“This celebration is not only important to New Market, but it is a big deal for all of Southwest Iowa, particularly this year. So, we’re looking forward to seeing people take part in it and enjoy it,” committee president Steve Cabbage said. “It is a big thing to be able to put on something like this so adults and kids alike will be able to celebrate our independence and understand what that means to us.”
Consisting of 25 people, the committee starts planning for the annual Fourth of July celebration in January. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools and businesses across the state to close their doors, the planning meetings were halted as well.
Cabbage said the meetings resumed during the first week of May and were held outdoors in the city pavilion to comply with needs for social distancing. He said the outdoor meetings also provided the members a better understanding of the types of precautions they would need to put in place for the celebration.
In the following weeks, the committee developed four different plans about how to move forward with the event. Each plan addressed different circumstances that could potentially relate to the status of the pandemic in July.
“We agreed to wait until this timeframe to make an assessment of the overall condition of the virus in our society and our area. That way we could move forward and know how we were going to do it,” Cabbage said.
Unless state officials would prohibit such celebrations, Cabbage said the committee agreed it was important for New Market to go on with the event. However, some members of the committee supported holding all the traditional activities as normal while others favored a very condensed celebration. As a result, Cabbage said it was impressive to see the members work through their concerns and come to a consensus.
“What I’ll remember most is the effort people made to get along. They shared their thoughts, but still respected what other people were telling them,” Cabbage said. “I believe we are moving forward with a plan that works for us and complies with what the state recommends.”
Normally, a citywide potluck kicks off the Fourth of July festivities on the evening of July 3. This year, to keep people from closely congregating in a buffet line, people will be able to collect a sack lunch. The meal will feature a sandwich, potato chips and a Rice Krispies treat.
A dodge ball tournament then followed in the school gym. Rather than having as many as 20 teams confined in the gym for that event, a volleyball tournament will be held instead. Cabbage said there would not be as many people in the gym at one team for a volleyball tournament. This would allow people to separate themselves more or even gather outside.
Then, on July 4, the New Market celebration will proceed with two of its most popular events: the afternoon parade and the annual fireworks display to conclude the event.
The parade will start at 1 p.m. Saturday and follow the same parade route as in past years. Cabbage said the existing route would provide spectators several safe vantage points from which to watch the parade.
“Considering the size of the parade route, there are many places people can watch from and practice social distancing,” Cabbage said. “State guidelines say we need to keep people from lining up behind the parade barriers, so we will try to make sure we have multiple places open so people can choose a location to be safe.”
A new event on the schedule of entertainment this year will be a performance of dueling pianos. Shortly after that event concludes, the annual fireworks display will be held. The display of fireworks is expected to take place at 10 p.m.
“For the fireworks display we will be opening what used to be the old football and baseball field,” Cabbage said. “Usually this area is fenced off, but it will be opened up this year and people may also sit along the banks. People can bring their lawn chairs or blankets and sit at the distance they want. This will probably double the square footage of where people can sit compared to where we were at before.”