Zanesville Jaycees cancel fireworks display to comply with health department order


By Christine Holmes, News Director

Fourth of July fireworks have been canceled in Muskingum County after the local health department ordered such celebrations be postponed in anticipation of large crowds, thus increasing the risk of spreading COVID-19.

Last week, the Zanesville Jaycees announced its annual fireworks show would be canceled in compliance with that order.

“The Muskingum County Unified Command made the decision on June 3rd that the ‘Stars and Stripes on the River’ fireworks display on July 4th would not be allowed to happen,” Jaycees president Andrew McGee wrote on Facebook.

The organization will still be awarding five scholarships to local high school graduates in the amount of $1,000 for each student despite canceling the event.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance for our community and local businesses,” the post read. “We know how much the community would have enjoyed the display and celebration of our freedoms to help unify us during these tough times.”

On June 3, ZMCHD Medical Director Jack Butterfield shared a public safety message announcing public fireworks events should be postponed until a later date yet to be announced.

“Fireworks events draw attendees that number in the thousands who most often celebrate outside their vehicles,” the message read in part. “Surrounding counties have canceled fireworks, which greatly increases the likelihood of additional attendees and becomes a mass gathering.”

Butterfield’s message said the decision to postpone fireworks would be reconsidered following the Director of Health’s new order on July 1.

On Monday, ZMCHD Health Commissioner Corey Hamilton shared the following statement when asked the reasoning for canceling the fireworks display:

“As of today, large gatherings of more than 10 people aren’t recommended due to the fact that COVID-19 is a highly contagious virus. Because Ohio is following a phased-reopening of businesses and activities some large gatherings have been permitted to take place. For example wedding receptions of up to 300 people are permitted. And, due to constitutional rights, the state has not attempted to prohibit religious gatherings such as the Bikerfest weekend, or first amendment gatherings, such as the Black Lives Matter rally. The Zanesville Jaycees have traditionally held an amazing Stars and Stripes on the River event to celebrate Independence Day. Thousands of people come from all over to gather in and around Zane’s Landing Park to participate in a day long festival ending in one of the very best fireworks displays I have ever seen. We are blessed to live in a community that supports events like that. Unfortunately, this year, it is not in the best interest of our community to gather in this way. And, while we may be sad, disappointed, or even angry about our situation, it doesn’t change the fact that we are dealing with a disease that will not go away just because we want it to. Without widespread and consistent community mitigation practices such as limiting large group gatherings, social distancing, frequent hand washing and surface sanitizing, COVID-19 has the potential to overwhelm our healthcare system and cause more of our friends and families to die an untimely death. Asking our community to forego our traditional fireworks displays over the July 4th holiday this year was a decision that the Muskingum County Joint Unified Command discussed and evaluated for the last several weeks before arriving at that very difficult, no win, decision. We all look forward to the time when it is safe again for our community to gather and celebrate our Nation’s Independence.”

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