July 4th celebrations put on pause or canceled in several Michiana cities

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. - While summer is just around the corner, so are major festivals, events and holidays like the 4th of July.

Even though Indiana’s Governor has a plan to reopen the state by July 4th, in Michigan it’s another story. And the biggest 4th of July events in Southwest Michigan have already been canceled.

Although July is still a couple of months away, city officials have already canceled St. Joseph, Michigan's big 4th of July festivities.

Hundreds of people take over Silver Beach dozens more are out on their boats to watch the fireworks. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, that is not going to happen.

“Part of the reason why it got canceled is the incredible number of people that it draws to this community and given the circumstance, there’s just no way to do an event like that,” Arthur Havlicek the President/CEO of SW Michigan Regional Chamber said. “It’s sad for all of us locally because it’s such a rich tradition that we look forward to. It’s hard to imagine the 4th of July without fireworks. But ultimately I think the city made the right decision to keep everyone safe.”

The event is normally held on Silver Beach and it is packed both on land and on boat.

“It’s a madhouse, you can’t get within, I would say a mile, mile and a half of the beach. Up top is all filled up with cars. This place is filled up by 9 o’clock in the morning,” Joseph Beckmann, a lifelong resident of St. Joseph said.

Fireworks go off from the pier at dusk, but the beach and businesses are what bring visitors to the area during this holiday.

A lot of local hotels and campgrounds see a large spike because folks don’t just watch the fireworks and leave but explore around the city of St. Joseph.

However now, the beach will look a little emptier. Families few and far in between practicing social distancing if they do come to the beach.

“That’s going to be a big hit because a lot of businesses rely on that influx of visitors. So many businesses make 80% of their revenue between Memorial Day and labor day and July 4th is kind of the peak of that,” Havlicek said.

Havlicek tells ABC57 he does still think people will come to Silver Beach on the fourth because the holiday is much more than just the fireworks going off at the pier. And he says the city is already working to come up with safety measures for when those visitors to arrive.

Michiana residents have mixed reactions.

While some say they are not surprised by the decision, others say it’s a bit too soon to announce anything.

“July – that’s a while away. I mean that’s giving up on everything getting back to normal. I mean they’re giving up a month and a half early,” Beckmann said.

“We kind of figured they’d be canceled at this point but it’s just sad to see it canceled already. I’m sure we’ll find other ways to celebrate,” Julie Holmes said.

“I think it would be too many people that showed up so if they’re trying to keep everyone far apart it’s going to be hard,” Amanda Tew said.

When asked whether they would go to a 4th of July celebration if there weren’t cancellations, some said they’d definitely go while others say they would still be worried about the crowds.

However, Michigan’s restrictions are more strict than those across the border in Indiana. So are cities in Indiana canceling their Independence Day events? Some are.

One of the biggest 4th of July parades in Indiana has now been postponed.

While Governor Eric Holcomb has announced a 5 stage plan to reopen the state by July 4th and hopefully allow for fireworks to still happen, the La Porte Independence Day celebration is the first in ABC57’s Indiana coverage area to announce any type of cancellations.

The Jaycee's 4th of July celebration brings thousands of people to the city of La Porte every year.

But because of safety concerns with the coronavirus, the fireworks on the 3rd are canceled and the parade moved to September.

“The celebration of the 4th of July is near and dear to not just the Jaycees but the community. We have 50,000 people come into our community every year on the 4th of July and the fireworks. So there’s a lot that goes into it – but obviously with everything going on it’s really important to keep safety in mind,” Ross Ratliff, a Chairperson for the 4th of July Jaycees said.

Because of safety concerns, the fair and fireworks have been canceled and the parade moved to September to coincide with one of their local festivals, the Sunflower Fair.

However, Ratliff says things can change but has hope that the event does indeed happen.

“We’re trying to keep safety in mind. While we are optimistic, we can have it in September, we’re hopeful that we’re able to but if something changes along the way, we’re going to have to come back and make a decision,” he said.

ABC57 reached out to Mishawaka and South Bend officials about what their plans are for the 4th of July celebrations. Both said it is too early to announce anything yet and that they are still monitoring coronavirus case data.

Share this article: