Brattleboro Goes Fourth goes digital

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BRATTLEBORO — The town's annual Independence Day activities are moving to digital formats this time around, given the size of crowds they tend to draw and public health concerns.

"These events usually involve thousands of people as participants and observers," Town Manger Peter Elwell said Tuesday in one of his regular updates about the municipal response to COVID-19.

Traditionally, the volunteer Brattleboro Goes Fourth committee and Brattleboro Recreation and Parks Department organize July 4 activities that include a parade downtown and fireworks at Living Memorial Park. But this year's festivities will be online, on television and on the radio.

Carol Lolatte, director of the town's Recreation and Parks Department, said organizers were waiting for guidance from the governor. That came last week when Gov. Phil Scott announced summer fairs and festivals must be canceled.

"We knew it was coming," Lolatte said. "We just didn't know when it was coming."

Keeping people healthy and safe, she said, is the number one priority.

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Lolatte described how the parade route is usually packed with people and the crowd builds into the evening. The fireworks draw an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 attendees.

A two-week "Show Your True Colors" countdown will begin June 22 and highlight local essential workers, graduating seniors, veterans and small business owners on the Brattleboro Goes Fourth Facebook page and WTSA-FM's "Morning Brew" program.

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Local personality Alfred Hughes is set to "reveal his annual surprise outfit" at 10 a.m. July 4 on the event's Facebook page, states a news release. Brattleboro Community Television will air last year's parade starting at 10 a.m. July 4 and will be followed by past parades on Channel 1072 on Comcast and Channel 8 on Southern Vermont Cable.

"We have explored all options," said Kevin O'Connor, volunteer parade organizer. "But in the interest of public safety, we're going to have to watch it on television."

The state's prohibition on gatherings of more than 10 people is a major reason for not holding the parade: Even if crowd sizes of 25 people or slightly larger were allowed later this summer, the parade tends to bring thousands of spectators to Main Street. Organizers also would need a permit, liability insurance and police presence.

Cor Trowbridge, executive director at BCTV, said details are still being finalized. More information about programming will be available at brattleborotv.org and on BCTV's Facebook page as the date approaches.

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The celebration also is set to "salute" longtime sponsors including the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, C&S Wholesale Grocers, G.S. Precision, Holstein Association USA and the Richards Group, states the news release.

Northstar Fireworks of Montpelier is holding money paid this year for 2021's celebration. Lolatte said the town has a good relationship with the vendor.

"We've worked with them for a number of years," she said, adding that the town was not the first group in the state to cancel a fireworks display.

Having a fireworks show this year, even if folks stayed in their vehicles, was not seen as practical.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com and at @CMaysBR on Twitter.


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