CHEBOYGAN — The Cheboygan City Council members had differing opinions about whether the Fourth of July fireworks should still take place amid COVID-19 concerns, ultimately voting 4-3 to still have the display.
Cheboygan Department of Public Safety Director Kurt Jones had provided each of the council members with a memo in their informational packets for the council meeting on May 26. Jones had been asked by members of the council as to whether the city was still going to have their fireworks display, as coronavirus concerns are still causing problems throughout the country.
"As I had discussed in my memo to mayor, council and City Manager (Tom) Eustice, after checking with surrounding areas, most are undecided as to whether to continue with the fireworks display on the Fourth or possibly some other celebration date," said Jones.
These other celebration dates could include Labor Day, Sept. 11, or even New Year's Eve.
The only area municipality that has made the decision to move forward with its fireworks display on July 4 is the City of St. Ignace. Many others, including the City of Petoskey and Bay Harbor, have canceled their displays due to concerns with the virus and social distancing. Harbor Springs is also considering canceling their display.
"Tuscarora Township and Mackinaw City are undecided, as we are, at this point," said Jones.
The City of Cheboygan had approved a permit for its display back in December, for Wolverine Fireworks, who has shot off the city's fireworks for many years. In the contract with the company, the city was given until June 1 to cancel its show and still receive its deposit back, or to make changes to the contract.
The cost of the fireworks display is $7,000 for the city, which is the same rate it has been for many years. As part of the contract, the city is required to have liability insurance in the amount of $10 million. The city then pays a deposit at the time the contract is signed, which was done in December and the deposit of $1,500 was paid, then the remainder of the balance will be due within 10 days after the show.
Jones said he has been in contact with the Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Bureau and that entity is still undecided whether it will still have the annual Fourth of July parade.
"And we've canceled many of the festivities downtown," said Cheboygan City Mayor Mark Bronson. "The things that we normally have. I would think that we're probably going to cancel the parade too."
Bronson said, in reading Jones' memo, it was his take that Jones doesn't see a clear path where the city can enforce the correct distancing for people who are supposed to be six feet apart. Since this is an issue, Bronson said he would vote on the side of canceling the fireworks display. Also, with other municipalities around the area canceling their displays, the city runs the risk of having people from the surrounding area coming to the city and not following social distancing guidelines.
There are many areas throughout the city where people can go to view the fireworks display, so it would be very difficult for city officials and officers with the Cheboygan Department of Public Safety to enforce the six foot rule.
Cheboygan City Councilwoman Diane Raab said if people could abide by social distancing, she would hate to see some of these things, such as the fireworks, canceled, with so many other things having been canceled this year already.
"I'm torn. I think that this has been difficult on everyone and whatever can bring people down to our city, with proper social distancing, is welcomed," said Raab. "But, again, for some, that's a very personal decision."
Cheboygan High School's graduation parade was a bit of an eye opener for some of the city officials, who saw many people crowded together, who may have been families, or not. They also saw some people maintaining the six feet rule.
Cheboygan City Mayor Pro-Tem Nick Couture said this is a free country and people who decide to go to events such as the fireworks, or make the choice not to go, they know the risks involved. He is also torn about whether the city should have the fireworks.
Several council members expressed their desire to still have the fireworks.
"I feel, personally like, I need to live my life. Like Nick said, we know the risks. I think we should give people the choice of whether to go or not," said Cheboygan City Councilman Brett Mallory.
Ultimately, the council members voted four to three to hold the fireworks as originally scheduled, at dusk, being shot off from the Cheboygan County Fairgrounds. Bronson, Councilwoman Sara Johnston and Councilman Vaughn Temple voted against having the event as scheduled.