Fourth of July fireworks may return to St. Helens this year, pending further discussion and information.
Mayor Rick Scholl has instructed Tina Curry, city event coordinator, to return to the city council with more information about what it would take for the event to be hosted.
In a Feb. 17 discussion, Scholl suggested hosting a tailgate party at the waterfront, estimating that 500 cars, each paying a $20 admission fee, could raise enough money for a reasonable firework show. To cut costs, Scholl suggested the show be held on the city-side of the water instead of on a barge or on Sand Island.
“I love Fourth of July, Independence Day— our birthday, United States,” Scholl said. “Already seeing that Vancouver canceled already it’s just frustrating to me.”
The uncertainty about what the case rate and COVID-19 status will be like in the county by July, and what scale of events will be permitted, presents a challenge when planning for future events. Requiring cars in order to access the show would ensure 6 feet of distance could be maintained, Scholl said.
“I think it’s definitely doable,” he said. The city needs to make a decision before the end of March in order to put down a deposit for the fireworks through Western Display Fireworks.
The Fourth of July fireworks show was postponed last year due to the restrictions associated with the pandemic and uncertainty of timelines. The city council considered moving the display to December during the Christmas Ships event, but did not end up moving forward with that plan.
Last year wasn’t the only year fireworks have been absent from St. Helens during Independence Day celebrations. In 2012, a city fireworks committee was unable to raise the $20,000 needed to host the display— which has typically been funded entirely through donations and sponsorships. However, fireworks did make a bang in St. Helens later that summer when the Maritime Heritage Festival organizers stepped in to raise $7,500 for a smaller display hosted over a week later, to coincide with the opening of the festival.
Curry said her biggest concern is that the city would not be able to prevent residents from walking into the parking area to view the show and crowding the area beyond distancing requirements. It was decided that a community survey on the topic would be dispersed to gauge interest.
“I’m hearing support to do it if we can,” City Administrator John Walsh said. The issue will be discussed further at the March 3 City Council meeting.
Curry updated the city council on the plans for summer events this year. In August the city will host a sandcastle competition on Sand Island. Curry said award-winning castle builders will come to the area and create sand sculptures that residents can view over a weekend and have the opportunity to learn how to create a sandcastle of their own from the experts.
“It will be, I think, really fun and encourage people to get outdoors,” Curry said. “They don’t have to crowd together, they don’t have to anything but really have an enjoyable day.”
She said there will also be a ‘Zorb ball experience’ offered throughout the summer in a city park. Zorb balls are large, transparent plastic balls people climb into and roll around inside— like a super-sized hamster ball. She said the balls will be sanitized between each use and the dimensions of the balls themselves ensure distancing.
For 13 Nights on the River, Curry said a drive-in method will be used to keep people distanced and the stage will be offset on the waterfront.
“I’m just anticipating that we can’t have a big bunch of people together again,” she said. “It might happen, it might not happen. I’m kind of preparing for worst case scenario.”
People will be able to sit in lawn chairs around their cars but will be required to stay in their designated area to avoid mixing families, she said.