Great Falls July 4 parade canceled; Black Eagle’s parade is modified

The Great Falls July 4 parade has been cancelled.

According to organizer Lola Galloway, the parade was cancelled at the request of the Cascade County City-County Health Department, the Cascade County Commission, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Cascade County Board of Health.

“We as a team have worked hard and outside the box to develop several plans, routes and concerns trying to accommodate everything possible that we could do to keep our community and visitors safe while having a parade,” she said in a release. “With the rise in number of cases of COVID-19 in our state and county we have been asked to cancel this event this year.”

The parade organizers had made changes to the parade for COVID-19 precautions and released those details last week, but since 13 new cases have been confirmed in the county since June 13, the decision was made to cancel what would have been the city’s 30th July 4 parade.

Trisha Gardner, Cascade County health officer, sent the following email to the parade organizers:

As you are probably aware, the State of Montana and Cascade County are seeing a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. We have had almost as many cases reported in our County the last two weeks as we did in the first two months of this pandemic, a number of which have been community acquired. This poses a serious risk to public health and we are asking for your help to prevent community spread in Cascade County. CDC recommends that organizers of any event should continually assess, based on current conditions, whether to postpose, cancel, or significantly reduce the number of attendees for gatherings. Since the 4th of July parade is not something that can be postponed or have the number of attendees reduced (since it is a public event), I believe it is in the best interest of Cascade County to cancel this event. We’ve consulted with local and State infectious disease specialists, the Cascade County Commissioners and members of the BOH and they are in agreement with me.

 The reasons for this are as follows:

  •  The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering, and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with, or spreading, the COVID-19 virus.
  • Social distancing and mask wearing have proven to be the hardest things to guarantee at any gathering, making our next step to eliminate gatherings where social distancing is not likely to occur.

COVID-19 is most definitely spreading in our community and this scheduled parade is an event that will undoubtedly contribute to further spread of COVID-19 unless each and every attendee takes all necessary measures (social distancing and mask wearing). Based upon what we have already seen in our community and around the country, that will not happen, so I am asking you to put out a public notice of cancellation by close of business tomorrow (Tuesday, June 30).

 I know this decision will be a disappointment, but it is in the best interest of protecting our community.  CCHD and the residents of Cascade County thank you for your continued cooperation in keeping our community safe. We understand this is a difficult move to make, but we are all in this together. Your assistance will ensure that our county continues to stay safe & healthy.

Gardner said that Black Eagle organizers countered with a proposal to do a reverse parade to eliminate people gathering as floats would be stagnant and spectators would drive by.

On Tuesday afternoon, organizers of the Black Eagle parade said they were doing the reverse parade and were still working out full details but the route would still be down Smelter and that floats, cars, bikes and trucks would be staged along the road and people will be able to drive through and see the parade without having to leave their cars or congregate in large groups.

Black Eagle is still hosting its celebration at the Community Center with social distancing guidelines and fireworks.

“Both organizers worked very hard to come up with plans to make safe and enjoyable events and this was not an easy decision to make. However, with the increase in COVID cases across Montana and Cascade County we don’t want to put the residents of Cascade County at risk,” Gardner said in an email to The Electric.

Two fireworks displays are still planned for July 4.

The fireworks show will also take place in Great Falls thanks to the People’s Park and Recreation Foundation’s Fireworks Forever Fund, and a donation from Steel Etc. and Jimmy and Debbie Filipowicz.

In an effort to limit crowd size, two fireworks shows will be held simultaneously from West Bank Park and Centene Stadium beginning at 10:30 p.m.

At 6 a.m, both West Bank Park and Elks’ Riverside Park will be closed all day to the public to avoid large group gatherings and potential COVID-19 exposure.

River Drive between 1st Avenue North and 6th Street will also be closed all day, starting at 6 a.m. For more information about the fireworks shows, contact Great Falls Park and Recreation Department at 406-771-1265 or Centene Stadium at 406-452-5311.