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Fireworks this July? Butler County communities debate Fourth of July events

FILE: Hamilton held its Independence Day celebration and fireworks display on Saturday, July 4, 2015, along the Great Miami River. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF
FILE: Hamilton held its Independence Day celebration and fireworks display on Saturday, July 4, 2015, along the Great Miami River. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Some area communities are debating decisions about quality-of-life events, like Independence Day and associated activities, are based on a community’s ability to ensure the public’s safety amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Middletown, for example, has announced there will not be fireworks, while Fairfield plans to have a display without much of the associated fanfare.

Fourth of July events attract large crowds where people often stand well within six feet of current social distancing practices. And some decisions are being delayed until it’s a bit closer to the nation’s birthday as more directions from Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and his administration are announced.

Ohio has already opened aspects of the economy, including medical, dental and veterinary services and construction and manufacturing offices. In-store retail businesses can open today, and dine-in restaurant and bar operations can resume in parts later this week and next week.

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Fairfield Parks and Recreation Director Tiphanie Howard said while the city’s fireworks display on July 3 is still scheduled to launch from Harbin Park, there will be no activities, and parks properties will be closed at dusk, including the Community Arts Center, Village Green Park and the adjoining parking lots.

City officials have discussed what programs and events need to be canceled now based on the restrictions put in place by DeWine and his administration, and what decisions can be made later.

That’s the same process that went into closing the Fairfield Aquatic Center for the year, Howard said, because “there’s no way a pool, especially a pool of our size, could handle all of the requirements they’re suggesting or leaning toward.”

But while the display is not canceled now, it could be called off later.

“Everything is still under review,” Howard said. “Just because we announced that we’re still planning on shooting (fireworks), that does not 100 percent guarantee that we are.”

Middletown’s fireworks display, parade and associated activities won’t happen in 2020, said Middletown acting City Manger Susan Cohen.

“We were all hoping we’d be able to come together and celebrate our country with Fourth of July fireworks. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the city of Middletown decided to postpone those celebrations this year and work to come back with a bigger and better event next year,” she said.

The annual Ohio Challenge Hot Air Balloon Festival has also been called off for this year.

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The cities of Hamilton, Monroe and Oxford have not yet made decisions on their fireworks displays and Independence Day events.

Hamilton City Manager Joshua Smith said some type of statement would be made later this month “once further information is provided by the state of Ohio.”

Monroe City Manager Bill Brock said council members “have just discussed it, but have not officially canceled” any July 4 events.

Oxford Parks and Recreation Director Casey Wooddell said one of the “contingency plans” being debated at this time is similar to Fairfield’s plan — a display but no activities. A formal decision is likely to come later this month or early June.”

“We kind of want to wait to see what the governor does with reopening (Ohio),” he said. “I hate to make the call too early.”