Fourth of July

Cowboys and cowgirls make their way down Main Street during Telluride’s 2018 Fourth of July parade. On Tuesday, Telluride Town Council decided to cancel the parade for the second consecutive year due to COVID-19 concerns. (Planet file photo)

While a year has certainly made a difference during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, some aspects will remain the same in 2021.

Telluride Town Council announced it will again forgo Fourth of July festivities for a second straight year during its virtual regular meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The discussion and subsequent decision came during the morning’s work session regarding special event planning for this summer.

Mayor DeLanie Young shared that she and town manager Ross Herzog recently met with Telluride Fire Protection District officials about the possibility of some type of July 4 event, but ultimately the outlook wasn’t favorable.

“I had a meeting with (fire district chief) John Bennett and (Telluride Volunteer Fire Department chief) Jason Gordon from the fire district last week, and we received last night an email from John Bennett that there is no picnic for Fourth of July. That is decided. There are also no fireworks for the Fourth of July. That has been decided,” she explained.

The decision wasn’t a surprise, however, as council members feel the same way, she added.

“Knowing that and having spoken to each of the council members, and a couple of staff members, none of us who I’ve spoken to can come up with any logical or coherent way to mitigate anywhere from 8,000 to 20,000 people for a Fourth of July parade,” Young said.

No council member, town employee or resident defended hosting an event this July.

“I think this is as good a time as any to take any comment from council on just having no Fourth of July events, knowing that there are no fireworks and picnic,” Young said. “Does anyone on council want to fight for the parade? I am not seeing any council hands go up. I am taking that as consensus that we need to do what we did last year and make an announcement in order to give people who are planning trips based on events time to plan accordingly.”

Herzog explained that he would put a public announcement together to share with regional partners and stakeholders similar to last year. The town’s official announcement wasn’t immediately available before press time Tuesday afternoon.

The Fourth of July parade is annually one of the largest events in town, and while festivals and similar gatherings will take place this summer, the calendar doesn’t necessarily need to be full for people to travel here, Mayor Pro Tem Todd Brown explained.

“In addition to just the parade and Fourth of July, we ought to also be talking about the other information we have gotten about what summer is expected to look like,” he said. “It’s not just the festivals, but it’s what’s going on across the Mountain West. Through the economic recovery committee and through the county meetings, we’ve also checked with the Forest Service and everybody else, and we know that, for example, every available Forest Service- or National Park-controlled campsite that’s able to be reserved has already been reserved for the entire summer. We are looking at more people here for outdoor exercise and camping than we have seen prior to the pandemic, festivals or no festivals.”

All the council members who were in attendance Tuesday agreed with the sentiment. Council member Lars Carlson, who did not attend the meeting, feels the same way, Young explained.

“Agreed, but I think we all realize that the Fourth of July parade creates … calling it a can of sardines is not even adequate. You can’t breathe sometimes with the press of the crowd,” she said. “I spoke personally to Lars, who is not with us today, and he is of the same mind. We just can’t wrap our heads around mitigating that.”

The work session also focused on festivals that are currently in the planning stages with hopes to host an altered event this summer, most likely with reduced capacities. With state and local public health orders anticipated to change throughout the season, San Miguel County Public Health Director Grace Franklin shared her thoughts on what organizers can expect.

“The short of it from the state level, it sounds like best practices and having the dial framework capacity limit suggestions will continue to be the gold standard, but not a requirement from the state perspective. Our local county public health, we are maintaining the state dial as an order through the end of May. So through the end of May we’re requiring capacity limits for indoors, six-foot distancing for outdoor events and all the different pieces, including traffic flow, transportation and sanitation, etc.,” she said. “We’ve also added any events over 500 people are required to consult with public health and the appropriate municipalities to ensure that these best practices are being met.

“We don’t know what the future is going to look like and it’s really important that we only have as much restriction as needed to maintain a healthy community. As we learn more we’ll be reassessing on that 30-day basis. So mid-May we’ll be looking toward June and what does that look like, but I do anticipate a lot of this will be gleaning from other places that have opened already or are planning to.

There are still a lot of vulnerable people, including our children. So large-to-medium gatherings still pose a risk as we’re making our way out of this pandemic. Having these basic protective factors like distancing and mask use when we cannot distance will be the key to success throughout this summer.”