GUSTINE - The Fourth of July in Gustine could still include fireworks, city officials said last week.
But hopes for holding the traditional parade and park activities have gone by the wayside, City Manager Doug Dunford confirmed.
Dunford advised the City Council last Tuesday that a site has been identified for a fireworks display.
Fund-raising, however, will take part on a short time frame.
“If we can raise the money, I think we can get there. We have such a short amount of time,” Dunford said last Wednesday. “We have basically six weeks before we have to say yea or nay.”
The city has an option of a $23,000 show or a $15,000 show, he noted, with the council voicing a preference for the larger extravaganza.
Dunford said the city is sending in a $4,000 deposit to its fireworks company, with the caveat that if for any reason the Fourth of July show does not go on, a fireworks display could be held later in the year or funds could be carried over to next year.
If a show is held, however, it will be a sharp departure from those of years past.
Dunford said the city has been given permission to use farmland just west of Gustine Middle School for a fireworks display, and that the school district has signed off on allowing people to park at the middle school and nearby Gustine Elementary School.
Viewers may also be able to park along surrounding streets and roads, Dunford noted.
He anticipates viewers being able to sit in, on or next to their vehicles to enjoy the fireworks show while still maintaining appropriate social distancing, Dunford explained.
Dunford said he does not anticipate the parade and park activities being held.
Parade organizers had hoped to achieve adequate distancing by extending the route to provide more room for viewers to spread out, and park activity organizers had held out hope to continue that tradition - even if organized only at the last minute.
But Dunford said gatherings of 250 or more people are not allowed until Stage 4 of the state’s phased re-opening plan. Merced County just achieved full Stage 2 status.
“I don’t see that happening in June, and I’m not too sure that is going to happen in July,” Dunford said of the prospects for reaching a point where such gatherings could be held. “It is going to take a little while to get to Stage 3, and a lot longer to go to Stage 4.”
Council members expressed optimism about a fireworks show.
“I am thrilled that we might be able to pull this off. If not the parade and the park, at least the fireworks (will) give our people something to be happy about and look forward to,” said Mayor Pat Nagy.
He suggested that, since fireworks donation barrels will not be a feasible fund-raising option that night, police and firefighters could conduct a “fill-the-boot” style collection.
Mayor Pro Tem Joe Oliveira said having a sanctioned fireworks show may also provide an alternative to those who would otherwise turn to illegal pyrotechnics.
“If we don’t pull off the fireworks, can you imagine the illegal ones?” he remarked.