No July 4 festival, but fireworks show gets the green light

The fireworks show will begin 10 p.m. July 4

Following much deliberation among local boards, the Swain County Chamber of Commerce board of directors made the decision last Tuesday to cancel Freedom Fest for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This is the largest annual event in Bryson City drawing around 8,000. The good news for locals and those who will be spending the holiday weekend in Swain County is the fireworks show is still planned to go on, with the show that lasts about 25 minutes set to begin at 10 p.m. on Saturday, July 4.

“We are moving forward with the fireworks as planned,” said Karen Proctor, chamber director.

In planning for the event, everyone involved was concerned with how to host the event that would have brought dozens of vendors to Everett Street, live music and food and do it in a way that would deter the spread of the coronavirus.

The biggest looming question was the current state guidelines that still limit outdoor gatherings to 25 people.

“After exhausting all other options, and in light of the restrictions placed on group gatherings currently under Phase 2 and projected in Phase 3 of Governor Cooper's reopening plan, the chamber board made the very difficult decision to cancel the festival,” she said.

While NC Gov. Roy Cooper could lift the restrictions into the next phase as early as Friday, the concerns over crowds remain.

Proctor expressed the dismay among the board that they had to cancel the Independence Day festival that has long been a favorite both among visitors and locals.

“We are incredibly disappointed that, for the first time in more than 25 years, the chamber will not be holding this event that is a tremendous benefit to our local businesses and that our locals and visitors enjoy so much,” she said.

The fireworks show will continue, as it is believes people can still view the show and safely maintain social distancing since the fireworks display can be viewed from many points throughout town.

“We are very fortunate that Swain County boasts so many locations that you can safely watch the show throughout downtown as well as the Ingle's parking lot, the high school football field parking lot, the post office, United Community Bank parking, etc.” Proctor said. “We are especially pleased to announce that our partners at the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad have made their parking lot on Mitchell Street available as a viewing location as well as Railroad Square."

The chamber has been working hard to see how to make it a safe event, and some of that work will continue as the town anticipates it to be a busy weekend.

With the fireworks show in the works, the chamber board is “working with

the Town of Bryson City and the Swain County Health Department to make accommodations for some of our vendors whenever and wherever possible,” Proctor said, including at the caboose on Everett and next to the train depot.

“We are also working on a plan to ensure that trash removal occurs at regular intervals on Saturday and Sunday, as we realize the volume will be much increased due to the holiday and to provide portable toilets and wash stations on the 4th as there is a real shortage of facilities in our downtown corridor even on a good day,” Proctor said.