“I was very nervous that it might not work but I liked the idea.” said Clark Kolterman, longtime Seward Fourth of July Celebration Committee member. “I thought, what if we record all these wonderful presentations and then the whole thing crashes? However, the virtual presentations didn’t crash and were enjoyed by thousands on the Fourth of July.
“The Committee has received many positive comments from all across the USA, where people spent the day pulling up one segment after another on the Seward Fourth of July Facebook page. Many also expressed sincere appreciation for our decision to not hold a live celebration this year.”
All of the postings are still up and can be viewed on the Seward Fourth of July Facebook page.
The Seward Fourth of July Celebration Committee announced in mid-May that there would not be a live, in-person Fourth of July celebration in Seward in 2020. The committee had been working on the 2020 celebration since July of 2019, and the schedule was set and ready to print, then had to be canceled because of COVID-19, community safety and social distancing.
The Seward Fourth of July Committee however continued to meet and decided to plan a virtual Fourth of July celebration and try to recreate or find events that would reflect the Seward Fourth and place them on the Seward Fourth of July Facebook page on July 4, as if it was taking place.
For example, the anvil firing would be put up at 7:30 a.m. and the Grand Parade would kick off online at 4 p.m. with the mayor's thank you at 10 p.m.
The Seward Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department volunteers surprised everyone with the real Fourth of July anvil firing on July 4 at 7:30 a.m. at Zabka Park, just like every year.
“It was great to hear you are all still in true form,” Kolterman said. “The anvil firing is a long time tradition and it was great to hear it was still happening. You can see the event on our Facebook page.”
Everything that could have a virtual component had one, committee member Phil Bangert said.
“Tonia Nantkes, the parade chairman volunteered right away to coordinate a virtual parade based on previous parades and place it on the Seward Fourth of July Facebook page for a step back in time. The Optimist Club offered to sponsor a virtual run, committee member C.J. Novak coordinated a special virtual car show. We even had a virtual horseshoe pitching contest,” he said.
Jessica Kolterman, Fourth of July Committee member, took charge of scheduling and posting the 75 segements on the Facebook page. Riley Nuttleman recorded, edited and produced almost half the segments.
“It was really a community effort,” Bangert said.
“The most popular segments on the Seward Fourth of July Facebook page were the older, converted recordings of previous Seward Fourths, such as the one when the TODAY show visited Seward in 1988,” Jessica Kolterman said.
Some of the segments were new, while others were revamped, she said.
“It kept people talking about the Fourth of July City-Seward and generated some great, positive publicity for the community of Seward and festival across the state and USA,” she said.
Berry Law Firm was in charge of the recordings for the Nebraska National Guard Museum.
This collection of recordings is a valuable, great library to archive and use as a resource, when we get requests for some footage of our celebration or a specific attraction in Seward County,” Pat Coldiron with the Seward County Visitors Committee and July 4 Committee said.
Jerry Meyer, historian at the museum and member of the committee, praised the community for its help with the Virtual Fourth.
“The Seward Fourth of July Celebration Committee is grateful to all who assisted with requests to help with the recordings or those that took time to record their presentations for our Facebook page. We are all volunteers, but it did put Seward in a good light, create some fun memories and stepped back in time,” he said. “It was fun to put the pieces together and now we have them – it is just too bad it took a virus to get us to record and preserve these memories, but now we have them. As usual, the community of Seward came through for the Seward Virtual Fourth.”
There was at least one bright side, Clark Kolterman said.
“No massive clean-up on July 5, no staggering garbage bill and no funds were needed for portable toilets this year,” he said with a smile. “The Seward Fourth of July Celebration Committee is REALLY looking forward to the big, live, in-person festival July 4, 2021 celebration next year, promoting “Double the Fun.
Plans call for a “double event,” incorporating many of the activities and salute to the Rivoli Theater’s centennial scheduled for this year, along with the centennial of Hughes Brothers, Inc. in 2021, calling it “Double the Fun in 21.”
The next Fourth of July Committee meeting is Thursday, July 16, at 7 p.m. at the Seward Civic Center and volunteers are always welcome to assist with this major event. Kolterman can be contacted at (402) 641-8522 or by email at email@example.com.