There will be no Independence Day fireworks this year in Anna.
During a specially called city council meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Nate Pike announced that the Greater Anna Chamber of Commerce board recommended the postponement of the July 4 event that was to take place at Anna High School’s Coyote Stadium.
The difficult decision was based on the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Texas and the fact that the event could not be held with proper social distancing measures in place.
Chamber President Kevin Hall said a number of factors went into the decision.
During a typical July 4 event, more than 1,000 people enter Coyote Stadium for the best view of the fireworks. There are usually additional people watching from their cars or nearby Slater Creek Park.
Gov. Greg Abbott’s latest COVID-19 guidelines stipulate that all events of more than 100 can only be held if approved by local governments.
"We feel it would be difficult to limit the city of Anna’s estimated 16,000 people to only 100 to view the fireworks in the best viewing area," Hall said. "Second, due to the buildings and construction in the area, fireworks can only shoot a few (hundred) feet in the air. Many people cannot stay in their homes and see the fireworks."
Slater Creek Park would be available, but it is limited to around 150 parking spaces if vehicles were spaced six feet apart from each other.
Hall added that after all the sacrifices local businesses have had to make over the course of the pandemic, the chamber was obligated to keep them safe, and therefore to not hold an event that could potentially put them at a greater risk of exposure to the virus.
He emphasized that the event is postponed, not canceled. The city has eight months to reschedule before losing all money allocated for the event.
There was some discussion among council members about finding a new location or even shooting fireworks at a higher level so people could see them safely. However, the permitting process, additional costs and other logistical issues made those options nearly impossible only a few days before the event.
Masks recommended, not required
Also during the meeting, Pike announced that he would not require masks to be worn in the city.
Chief among his reason was his belief that government officials don’t have the authority to require people to wear them.
He also suggested that wearing a mask may pose an undue burden to those with certain health conditions.
"I fully recommend that everybody wear their masks in public when walking into businesses," he said. "The second thing is that I think it is up to our business owners to determine whether or not they feel they should require their patrons to wear a mask."