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Greeley, other locations hold modified Fourth of July celebrations

Holly Jessen
for The Fence Post

The Greeley Stampede, a big summer event in Greeley. Colo., may have been canceled due to COVID-19 but that isn’t putting a stop to a Fourth of July celebration, stampede style. “We came up with different virtual events, to carry on the stampede tradition,” said Justin Watada, general manager of Greeley Stampede.

The 99th annual Greeley Stampede was supposed to start on June 24 and run through July 5. The event, which typically includes a rodeo, live music and more, has more than 220,000 attendees yearly, Watada said. The stampede has a huge economic impact on the community and it was a difficult decision to cancel it. “It was for the health of our community,” he said.

The event’s full-time staff of six has been hard at work coming up with alternative activities, which can all be enjoyed while social distancing or from inside residents’ homes. That includes a fireworks show, a shoe box parade, food tour and, in September, a virtual rodeo.

This year’s fireworks show will be bigger than ever, thanks to the support of sponsors. It will be viewable from five to 10 miles from the park, so attendees can watch it from their cars, their yards or virtually, rather than coming to the park as in past years. “If people do come down to the park, they are encouraged to practice social distancing between groups and follow the city’s park rules,” he said.

The idea for a shoe box parade came from a group in Portland, which decided to hold a virtual parade instead, with decorated shoe boxes, rather than floats, Watada said. Greeley’s virtual shoe box parade will include entertainment from musicians, cheerleaders and dance groups.


Since there won’t be a food court this year, organizers also worked with local restaurants to make sure festival food was still an option, said Kevin McFarling, marketing coordinator for the Greeley Stampede. From June 24 to July 5, 11 area restaurants have special offerings on the menu, such as smoked turkey legs, funnel cakes or rib on a stick.

Another virtual element of the celebration is a series of how-to videos, which will be posted online. Rather than interacting with businesses or individuals at the stampede, this year attendees will have the opportunity to watch videos online on topics such as square dancing, summer drink preparation or deep frying an Oreo. For example, Miss Rodeo Colorado recorded a video showing children how to make a stick horse at home. “We’re just trying to keep the spirit of the stampede alive,” McFarling said, adding that at least one video will be posted daily through the end of the event.

As for the rodeo, a three-day Spud Rodeo is planned for Sept. 11 to 13, Watada said. It’s named after Greeley’s first rodeo held in 1922, in honor of local potato farmers, and it will be viewable online. “Right now we’re planning it as no fans in the stands,” he said, although if COVID-19 has improved by then that could change. “There’s just so much unknown at this time,” he added.

OTHER EVENTS

Greeley isn’t the only community making adjustments to its Fourth of July plans. Communities across Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska and Kansas have canceled or changed part or all of their traditional celebrations. A lot of towns have slimmed the festivities down only to fireworks. In some places, like the rodeos on the Fourth of July in Cody, Wyo., and Dubois, Wyo., the show must go on, but with social distancing and extra hand washing supplies. Others, like Greeley, have found ways to hold new events virtually.

Here are a few examples:

In Grand Island, Neb., the Stuhr Museum of the Pioneer Prairie will be open for its 1899 Independence Day Celebration, but with social distancing measures in place onsite and several events held only virtually, said Mike Bockoven, marketing director. The museum, which reopened to the public on June 22, will be open to visitors on July 4 at 9 a.m. Visitors will be asked to wear masks and the number of people allowed in one building at a time is limited, he said. Other events, like the German Language Church Service, historical music, poetry and an address given in 1890 style, will be posted on the museum’s website and YouTube on July 4.

Some communities, like Hays, Kan., are going forward with multiple events, but with social distancing. On July 3 and 4, that city will hold a pickleball tournament, serve food, a free concert, have a parade, a 5K race and a fireworks show.

In Lenexa, Kan., instead of a traditional parade, residents, businesses and others were asked to participate in a community porch parade. Locations that register for the parade decorate for the holiday and get an official entry yard sign placed in their yard.

Prairie Village, Kan., took their parade at 9 a.m. July 4 in the opposite direction, asking residents to decorate their vehicles and parade through the municipal campus. The city is also having several contests on social media, including a sidewalk art contest, photo contest and Prairie Village trivia.

In Colorado Springs, Colo., rather than have one fireworks display at Colorado Springs’ Memorial Park, fireworks will be launched from 10 locations across El Paso County. The idea is for people to be able to watch from their front porches or on KKTV Channel 11. And, as has happened for the past 47 years, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic will perform music to go along with the firework displays. This year, however, the music will be broadcast on several local radio stations, so residents can listen along as they watch. ❖

— Jessen is a freelance writer living in Minnesota with her nurse husband and daughter. They recently settled down after more than three years living a travel lifestyle, thanks to her husband’s travel nurse job. She can be reached at  hollyjessenmedia@gmail.com.




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