The Juneau Assembly had earlier cancelled the Fourth of July parade due to the current pandemic, but had said the fireworks display on July 3 could proceed, if everyone who came to town to watch the display wore face masks.
But Monday night that changed.
The Assembly stuck a knife through the annual fireworks show, which typically is shown late on July 3, or at about midnight on the 4th. The mask portion required an emergency ordinance, and it failed.
The fireworks show is a beloved tradition in most of America, and Juneauites often drive in from the Mendenhall Valley to watch it from their cars or along the waterfront, as the fireworks are shot from a barge in Gastineau Channel. Volunteers put on the show, rain or shine.
In Juneau, the Fourth of July weekend is the biggest celebration of the year, a time when people have family reunions, baseball games, foot races, parties, and barbecues. In what is somewhat a secular town, July Fourth is a high holy day.
But not this year. On a 5-4 vote, the Assembly majority worried that people would get COVID-19, and wouldn’t wear masks or stay six feet apart to prevent the pandemic from spreading in the community. The Assembly ordinance that was up for a vote tied a mask mandate to the fireworks show, and the whole measure failed.
Mayor Beth Weldon, and Assembly members Wade Bryson, Greg Smith, Rob Edwardson, and Michelle Hale voted in favor of the fireworks show.
But Assembly member Loren Jones said that there’s a lot of drinking in Juneau during that evening.
“The town is not ready to be opened up that much,” he said, a sentiment echoed by the others who voted to kill off the fireworks.