You know it is a very upside-down year when the City of Seward’s annual Fourth of July Celebration Committee votes to not host a live Fourth of July Celebration in 2020 and merge their 2020 Fourth of July celebration event into their 2021 Fourth of July Celebration.
It is true. On May 18, the committee voted to cancel this year’s in-person celebration. Since this is obviously the year of change, incorporating technology into everything, the committee is working to make many aspects of the celebration into a virtual celebration. They will feature many of the events and annual features of Seward’s Fourth on their Facebook page and possibly their website.
“I have been involved in over 50 Fourth of July celebrations, and no one hated to halt the event this July 4 more than I did, but we are not above all the other wonderful events and happenings that have had to cancel,” Clark Kolterman, committee chair, said. “There has been so much heartache over cancellations this year and this is just one more. At least we can find comfort in knowing we have a bigger event in the making for July 4, 2021. Believe me, this next year will be very organized, as we will have had two years to make it great.”
Jessica Kolterman, committee secretary, said the all-volunteer group is working on ways to put parts of the celebration online as video clips, posting on the committee’s Facebook page.
“It will not be as good as the real thing, but for some, I think they will enjoy the attempt to give something that might resemble the Seward Fourth of July,” she said.
The Seward Fourth of July Celebration is celebrating their 153rd annual event and only a few of the activities will actually happen on July 4 due to the recent COVID-19 issues and rulings.
Committee members and event chairs shared their thoughts about the decision.
National Guard Museum
“With all of the cancellations or postponement of major events and happenings in the area before and after this July 4, and after much deliberation, discussion and care, the committee felt that it would be irresponsible of the community to host thousands during the special day,” said Jerry Meyer, July 4 Celebration committee member and historian for the Nebraska National Guard Museum. “We are not able to even open the Museum on the Fourth due to the coronavirus National Guard directive, following the governor’s directive for group gatherings. However, we do plan on offering up to three visual virtual tours of the museum and they can be found on our website, the museum Facebook page and the Fourth of July Facebook page.”
Crafts and food
Sharon Hambek, craft show chair, and Lois Kimsey, food alley chair, expressed concerns about managing the crowds in smaller spaces.
“Our committee had to take into consideration the difficulty of hosting a crafts fair. Many of our vendors are approaching the magic age of 65+ and we did not want to place them in risky situations. It is hard to space them apart, due to numbers and very difficult to prohibit customers from touching the merchandise,” Hambek said. “Our concern is the visiting customer and out-of-town vendor safety and this year we, in good faith, felt we could not say it was going to be safe. People like to touch things and they can’t in this situation.
“We are bringing so many into Seward from other areas of Nebraska and across the USA to promote the Fourth and who knows where they have been? We were already over half full with reservations. The vendors wanted to come, but even they were concerned. We will refund their fees and give them priority next year. They are the loyal ones to our Fourth. The craft show space rental is one of our major funding events for our Fourth expenses, so we will be hurting like all the closed businesses.”
“Because of the coronavirus quarantine, my business has dropped significantly, almost to nothing, but I voted to merge this year’s Fourth into next year because it really isn’t safe yet. I will lose thousands because Seward’s Fourth isn’t happening but I know it is our only option,” said Liberty House Bed and Breakfast owner and Seward Fourth of July Committee member Pat Coldiron. “Economically and spiritually, we really need this celebration-I would be the first to realize that, as it is very important to Seward’s economy. However, we cannot be the reason a person contacted the coronavirus.”
“Food Alley vendors are full and packed into the same space and that will not work this year,” Kimsey said. “We were trying to design a new floor plan and flow, however, there is also the problem of social distancing in lines for the wonderful funnel cakes and turkey legs. While we could make rules, who is going to police them and what happens if they break the rules?
“We love our food vendors and their loyalty to our celebration and hate to have them loose the income of the day. We will give a full refund to the vendors and promise them a great celebration in 2021. Sadly, to postpone the Food Alley is the right thing to do this year. All of these booths represent the funds that support our Fourth and allow us to offer everything free to families. Now like everyone else-we are closed.”
“Our trolley system health safety was an issue this year,” Brad Bowen, longtime committee trolley co-chair with his wife Sue, said. “Our system is very popular and how do we do social distancing on the trolleys? Plus, when do we stop and wipe them down?
“We don’t want anyone hurt or getting sick as a result of riding on the trolley’s at Seward’s Fourth. We will be back with the trolley system again next year and thank the community and sponsors for their support over the years.”
“We have one of the top car shows in Nebraska each year and to move the show to a different date is really almost impossible, as the Fourth of July was ‘our date.’ Almost every weekend and holiday is booked by a community for their car show, so to move the show would not be an option,” Car Show Chair C. J. Novak said. “We have many senior citizens involved in the car show, who show cars and they were even concerned about attending this year. There will be more Fourths, and it is not worth risking a life.”
“Another factor is that the community businesses and industry have supported our events and the celebration as a whole,” said Lana Urban, Optimist Run chair. “The Optimists are planning on a virtual run this year for the annual Optimist Run, with details to follow. Watch our website and the July 4 website for details.
“It would be very difficult to ask a business, who has been shuttered and closed for months, to contribute to our T-shirt advertising for the run or support something else, but we wanted to have the run to support the Fourth and keep the tradition going. We totally understand not to have ads this year as we want everyone to get back on their feet. We have enjoyed the sponsorships over the years and they will be back supporting our run in the future.”
“We have developed a great first aid center for our Fourth in partnership with the Red Cross and they were very nervous about helping with our Fourth,” said Zach Long, July 4 First Aid Center chair. “Our area was busy enough with the basic heat problems, but to add the COVID-19 issue would really increase the committee’s responsibilities. It would be a real challenge to host a Fourth this year.”
“Funding will be an issue, as we lost all of our traditional revenue sources-craft show rental, booth space rental at food alley and the income from Miscellaneous Market,” said Seward Fourth of July Treasurer Jill Kruse. “We have been blessed with four dedicated sponsors to assist with our fireworks show, but their sponsorships funds only half the fireworks show expense. We do have limited reserves for situations such as this, but it will be a very “tight” year. All donations to our celebration committee is appreciated.”
The annual fireworks show at Plum Creek Park will not happen this year.
“Fireworks are definitely a constant for our celebration, but this year it will be different. We are grateful for our annual corporate sponsors - Jones Bank, Cattle Bank, Hughes Brothers and Scoular,” said Fireworks Chair Curt Coddington.
Families are encouraged to enjoy their own fireworks at home.
Day was ready
“Because of the coronavirus and our quarantine to our homes, we have had more time to get our festival together and organized. Our 153rd annual Fourth of July is ready to go – the talent is scheduled, applications are posted on the website, the Grand Marshall is selected and the votes are in on the Community Service awardee. Our theme is selected-“The Magic of Movies” and we will honor the 100th anniversary of the Seward Rivoli Theater. We are ready to go.
“Now we realize that, along with the nation, we must follow the rules and guidelines and cancel this major social gathering at the risk of spreading the coronavirus. The celebration is not canceled, just postponed and will merge into the 2021 July 4 Celebration, making it double the fun,” Clark Kolterman said.
“The Goehner Centennial Players always end their melodrama singing the song “Look For the Silver Lining,” and we indeed can sing that song as members of the Fourth of July Committee, as our silver lining is that we have a plan in place for our festival for this year and a head start in organizing our Fourth of July next year.
“FYI, next year in 2021, we plan to honor the centennial of Hughes Brothers, Inc., and salute the American labor force, along with a continued salute to the Rivoli’s centennial and “The Magic of Movies.” We certainly hope no one will contract the coronavirus as a result of visiting our Fourth this year and we will continue the identity as ‘Nebraska’s Official Fourth of July City.’
“This Fourth will not be our traditional Fourth, but why would that be any different than anything else this year? It’s a crazy year and this Fourth will be different but happen-in its own crazy “stay at home” way. So, Spend the Fourth in Seward - in spirit if not in person.”