The South County 4th of July Parade, entering what would have been the 44th year of music, fun and patriotism, has been canceled, officials announced on Thursday.
The parade cancellations crosses a second Fourth of July tradition off the calendar. The annual Red, Hot & Blue Festival sponsored and run by The Woodlands Township is also canceled. A fireworks show will still take place at 9:30 p.m. on July 4 at an undisclosed location.
Stuart Schroeder, the president of the parade committee, said after lengthy discussion and debate, the committee made a “very difficult decision” to call off the annual spectacle celebrating America’s birthday. The event normally draws more than 10,000 spectators and includes bands, floats and other fun activities.
“We were very disappointed. this was not a decision we made lightly. it is kind of a labor of love for our committee. I’ve been involved with the parede 10 years, there are others with probably 20 years of service. We’re all volunteers. It was a very difficult decision,” Schroeder said. “With the size of the crowd and parade route, it just wasn’t practicle to social distance. And having a masked gathering, we just didn’t feel was appropriate.”
Township Director John Anthony Brown said the loss of the iconic parade as well as the Red, Hot & Blue Festival is sad for the community.
“I am disappointed, but at this juncture it is best to be safe due to the very large amount of people that would gather. We are working on some other ideas, maybe some type of drive-in fireworks display,” Brown said of Red, Hot & Blue festival. “The location (for fireworks) would provide ample parking areas for spectators to remain in or near their vehicles to view the display.”
In a press release sent to media, officials with the South County 4th of July Parade Committee and sponsor Market Street announced the cancellation of the popular event.
“With great sadness, the cancellation of the 44th Annual 4th of July Parade, ‘Stars & Stripes Forever’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” officials stated in the release. “With the potential of over 20,000 spectators and 200 volunteers gathering along the parade route through Town Center and Market Street, holding the parade would not be in the best interest of health and safety for our community.”
The popular event draws high school bands, citizen walkers, public officials and representatives from various branches of the military. The organizing committee is composed of nine volunteers and is designated as a 501(c)(3) corporation funded through donations and sponsorships. According to Schroeder, the parade dates to the late 1970s when it was organized by The Woodlands Lions Club. The South County 4th of July Committee was formed in the early 1990s.
Schroeder said the committee usually begins work on each year’s parade in mid-January, and with the 2020 event canceled, the group will be on hold until January 2021 to restart plans for a return to action that summer.
“It is a six-month planning process to plan logistics and all the contractors that we use and work with our sponsors…it is not something you can turn around and do in three weeks,” he added.
Fireworks show still on schedule
During a presentation during the May 21 meeting of the township board, Parks and Recreation Director and Manager Chris Nunes said staff is in the process of devising some type of Fourth of July fireworks display event that may involve residents watching from inside motor vehicles at a series of parking lots. The idea is still being researched and would potentially cost $150,000.
Another community stalward, the Red, Hot & Blue Festival has been canceled. It will be replaced by the fireworks display Nunes discussed on Thursday. In a release, officials said ‘teaser’ shots of fireworks will begin the 18-minute shows at 9 p.m., 9:10 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. on July 4. The fireworks display will then start at 9:30 p.m.
According to a press release on the township’s website, “The event will still feature the Fireworks Extravaganza, which will be launched from an alternate location to be announced at a later date.”
“The location will provide ample parking areas for spectators to remain in or near their vehicles to view the display. Attendees are highly encouraged to practice social distancing and continue following all guidelines recommended by the CDC while viewing the fireworks,” officials state in the online post. “The Fireworks Extravaganza will take place at 9:30 p.m. To ensure spectators have the best fireworks visibility possible, fireworks teaser shots will be fired from launch location.”