Montgomery County will not host Fourth of July celebrations this year because the COVID-19 pandemic interfered with the county’s ability to plan events.
The county announced Thursday that the two events it typically hosts — “Germantown Glory” in South Germantown Recreational Park and “Mid-County Sparkles” at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington — have been canceled for the second year in a row.
Rockville, Gaithersburg and Takoma Park have also canceled Independence Day parades and fireworks shows for the second year in a row.
Alternative activities have been planned to replace the traditional celebrations in Gaithersburg and Takoma Park.
The Bethesda, Chevy Chase and Columbia country clubs in Montgomery County are hosting private members-only fireworks displays.
The town of Poolesville and the Upper Montgomery County Volunteer Fire Department are hosting a public Fourth of July celebration with a fireworks display. There will be food trucks and live music.
Judy Stiles, who works on communications and public outreach for Montgomery County’s Department of Recreation, said in an interview that timing was the main factor in the decision to call off the events.
At the time the county would have worked on event contracts and fireworks permits, “we were still in a COVID emergency,” interfering with planning, she said.
With Independence Day coming soon, Stiles said that it would be too late for the county to now file those contracts and permits in time to have fireworks shows and the events.
She said Montgomery County has not planned any alternative Independence Day celebrations in person or virtual.
In April, the city of Rockville announced that its Independence Day Celebration had been canceled due to “public health concerns arising from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Rockville Reports, the city’s official publication.
The article stated that Rockville’s celebration, held annually at Mattie J.T. Stepanek Park in King Farm, draws nearly 30,000 people.
The April announcement cited Montgomery County’s latest health orders at the time, which prohibited outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people. Now, outdoor gathering limits are lifted.
Similar to Montgomery County, at the time contracts for the Fourth of July celebrations were supposed to be arranged, there was still uncertainty around COVID-19.
“What was going to happen with COVID and all that was still kind of up in the air, and so we just weren’t able to make it happen,” said Marylou Berg, the director of communications for the city of Rockville.
Berg said the city has not planned any alternative community events for the Fourth of July weekend.
Takoma Park is hosting a “Parade of Houses” this year instead of the traditional celebration of a parade and fireworks at Takoma Park Middle School.
Residents can register and decorate their house or business and be entered into the decorating contest.
“Instead of the parade coming to a central location, every house, every location is its own parade,” said Tara Egan, vice president of the Takoma Park Independence Day Committee and parade organizer.
The parade of houses is modeled off of “Yardi Gras,” the at-home version of Mardi Gras in New Orleans this past year, Egan said. Residents decorated their homes as if they were floats.
“We’re hoping that a lot of the groups that participate in the parade are from Takoma Park or [the] Takoma Park area, and have the decor that they would use for their float or the giant inflatable dog or the eight-person bicycle …,” Egan said. “And they can use that to decorate their yard or their porch.”
Egan added that Takoma Park will also host a concert at the Takoma Park Gazebo on July 4 from noon to 4:30 p.m.
The route for the Parade of Houses will be available to view on July 1 on the Takoma Park Fourth of July Parade website.
Gaithersburg’s SummerFest and its traditional fireworks display will not be held on the July 4th weekend, but the city has planned a weekend of alternative activities, “Red, White & Blue Weekend,” from July 1 to 4.
While there won’t be fireworks for Independence Day, the city has planned a fireworks show and stage entertainment for the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, Sept. 5.
The “patriotic-themed” activities for the July 4th weekend are both virtual and in person.
Activities include a virtual photo parade, chalk drawing projects, a virtual cooking demonstration, an outdoor movie and a mural display at the skate park. A full list of the activities can be viewed on the city’s website.
A June 16 press release that announced the weekend activities stated: “Due to uncertainty about gatherings during the extensive advance planning stages, SummerFest and its traditional fireworks display could not be coordinated in time for 4th of July weekend.”
In Washington D.C., the National Park Service will host an annual Independence day fireworks display at the National Mall on July 4.
Fireworks are Illegal in Montgomery County
For decades, all fireworks have been illegal to possess or discharge in the county without a permit. Fireworks include firecrackers, skyrockets, Roman candles and sparklers.
Public safety and fire and injury prevention are the main reasons that fireworks are illegal, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
“Coming out of 2020, we are concerned that since there aren’t any public displays, that people might try to have a backyard display of some sort. And, of course, in order to do that, you must have a permit,” Piringer said.
He added that residents can get permits to host a fireworks display or possess fireworks.
Each year, fireworks in the U.S. cause 12 deaths, 2,000 serious eye injuries and 5,000 other injuries, according to Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
Possession or discharge of fireworks carries a $500 fine. Selling fireworks is illegal, as well, and carries a $1,000 fine.