With little fanfare being made, Friday Harbor will still host fireworks this Fourth of July.
“We had to make a decision about whether or not this even can be done safely. It is Independence Day, it’s America’s birthday and we have celebrated it here for a number of years,” Town of Friday Harbor Administrator Duncan Wilson said during a June 18 town council meeting. “We would not have recommended to you that this go forward if we didn’t think it could be done in a safe manner.”
Partnering with the San Juan Island Chamber of Commerce, Kings Market and the Port of Friday Harbor, this year’s fireworks show is the only public event being hosted for the holiday and was not advertised outside of the county.
“We don’t expect this is going to be a huge draw for a 15-minute fireworks show for somebody to pay $80 to bring themselves up on the ferry to see that,” Wilson said. “We do not see anything here that would increase the overall risk to the community by having the fireworks display. … I think giving people a centerpiece to celebrate Independence Day and to do it safely and to take actions to try to make sure that it’s safe, I think is appropriate.”
The decision to have the fireworks show was made in early May, according to Wilson. May 4 was the deadline to make the deposit.
“We believe they can be done safely,” Wilson said. Adding that he had consulted with San Juan County Public Health Officer Dr. Frank James beforehand.
Not everyone in the community was excited about the prospect of an Independence Day fireworks display. Christine Desermeau of Friday Harbor started a petition to stop the event from occurring. The Change.org petition garnered more than 300 signatures.
“A good government cares about minority citizens and helps them have a voice. Holding an event to draw more risk of COVID-19 to the islands without regard to the high-risk group here is dangerous and foolhardy,” Desermeaux said to the town council during public comment. “We have been so careful and have been months with little to no contact and we have been very successful. Our efforts have had a personal cost and for some, a financial cost. But this is too soon.”
The chamber and Town have a plan for protecting the community from the potential spread of COVID-19 during the display.
“Social Distancing Ambassadors will be stationed throughout the waterfront area and the Port of Friday Harbor docks to remind people to maintain an appropriate distance from those around you,” the chamber announced in a press release.
The organizers are asking audience members to wear face coverings and maintain social-distancing during the display. Wilson noted that the port will restrict access to the docks and the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs also announced it would be closed to visitors for the day.
Since personal fireworks are banned in San Juan County, the town and chamber viewed this as an opportunity to provide holiday entertainment to those who may otherwise go without or utilize illegal fireworks.
“July 4th is our nation’s Independence Day and one of the most important holidays we celebrate as American citizens,” the event’s press release read. “We hope this brings back some ‘normalcy’ to our otherwise disrupted lives.“