Health department reverses decision, Jaycees moving forward with fireworks


By Christine Holmes, News Director

A week after the Zanesville Jaycees announced the organization would not be setting off fireworks as part of its annual Fourth of July tradition, officials at the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department changed their mind.

“It’s been a little bit of back and forth with the unified command,” said George Walters, Media Chair member of the Zanesville Jaycees. “It’s been a tradition of ours for about 47 years now. We were really hoping we could keep it going, and we finally got the OK to.”

A month ago, the organization announced it was canceling its Stars and Stripes on the River festival-like event at Zane’s Landing Park, but had plans to move forward with a fireworks display.

Then the Zanesville-Muskingum County Health Department issued a health message postponing Independence Day fireworks in the county.

“Unfortunately, this year, it is not in the best interest of our community to gather in this way,” wrote Health Commissioner Corey Hamilton last Monday. “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.”

A week later, that decision was reversed after new orders were issued by Governor Mike DeWine.

“We are extremely happy that they’re permitting us to light the fireworks off the Y-Bridge,” said Walters. “We’re just ecstatic that we’re going to be able to light up Zanesville’s skies on our nation’s birthday.”

According to Hamilton, the Joint Unified Command Center canceled fireworks based on their interpretation of a health order from the State of Ohio issued in late May restricting festivals, carnivals, fairs and other outdoor activities of the like.

“We interpreted this to include events such as the Jaycees’ Stars and Stripes on the River” and asked them to postpone the event on June 3, 2020,” wrote Hamilton.

Then, the Ohio Department of Health changed its own order.

“Two things happened on June 12th and June 16th that caused the Unified Command to review our decision,” wrote Hamilton. “First, the Muskingum County Common Pleas Court granted a temporary injunction allowing live music at a local campground because it was allowed in restaurants and bars. Then, a new ODH order was issued which allows county fairs to be held.”

After reaching out to the Jaycees to see if there was enough time to pull the display together, the Joint Unified Command announced fireworks would now be permitted.

“We’re working out the final details now because when they canceled the fireworks the last time, we just decided we were going to take all the money from fireworks and put it in scholarship funds,” said Walters. “Now that that’s all changed, we’re scrambling to get it figured out and see what we can do, even still for our scholarship awards.”

A GoFundMe account has been created to help raise money to support the event this year.

“I understand that there’s not a lot of exposure this year because we don’t have our event down at the Landing — one of the other things that we like to do for our platinum and gold sponsors, but we’re working on putting something together so that they can still get the exposure and they can still donate to a good cause, that way it doesn’t negatively impact the rest of our programs the rest of the year,” said Walters.

In addition to Stars and Stripes on the River, the Jaycees also hold an annual food truck rally, shop for area children at Christmas and donate to other local non-profit organizations.

“Everyone has been on quarantine or stay-at-home orders, and this is the one thing that we wanted to do so that people could have something to look forward to, something that they could, along with social distancing guidelines, be with their family and be able to watch fireworks,” said Walters.

Those who watch the display on the Fourth of July will be asked to comply with social distancing guidelines.

“If you’re going to stand outside your car, please stay with the people that you rode with and just maintain six-foot distance if at all possible, and if it’s not possible, wear a face mask,” said Walters.

The fireworks are expected to begin around 10 p.m.