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Area Fourth of July celebrations adapted

IRON RIVER—The 244th birthday of the United States of America comes at a unique time in the history of the country with an ongoing pandemic affecting life across the globe. As such, the normal joyous and carefree celebrations that communities across the U.S. engage in to celebrate Independence Day are likely to be tamped down, at least in some ways, this Saturday, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
    Locally, that’s the case. The Iron River Fourth of July celebration has been cut back, while Hematite Township is not “endorsing or promoting” any activities, according to township supervisor Joe Hoenig.
     However, Alpha will host a program very similar to last year’s festivities.
    Iron River
    To begin the day, the West Side Veterans Council is sponsoring a flyover of vintage aircraft at 10 a.m. The pilots and aircraft will make four passes over Genesee Street. Frank Jirik of the West Side Veterans Council suggests the Post VFW 3134 as an excellent viewing location.
    “Due to the COVID-19 risk, there will not be any food or beverages served at the Post,” Jirik said.
    There will be no parade this year or kids’ games and contests at the West Iron County Fire Department Hall because of COVID restrictions concerning social distancing requirements.
    However, Iron River will hold its annual Fourth of July fireworks display at dusk. The fireworks are hosted by the Vets Council and the West Iron County Fire Department, which launches the fireworks from the north end of Stambaugh Airport.
    There are several gathering places around town to enjoy the show, including Genesee Street, Jirik said.
    All those who gather are reminded to social distance and masks are recommended.
    At a recent meeting of the Iron River City Council, city attorney Mark Tousignant also urged would-be spectators to abide by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order and guidelines on proper social distancing and personal protective equipment.
    In her executive order on June 5 that moved the U.P. to Phase 5 of the MI Safe Start Plan, Whitmer announced that under Phase 5, outdoor social gatherings and organized events are allowed if people maintain 6 feet of distance from one another and the gathering consists of no more than 250 people.
    This year will be the 107th consecutive Fourth of July celebration in Alpha.
    Mastodon Township and the village of Alpha start the Independence Day celebration at 9 a.m. when the flag is raised in the village circle. The parade will follow at approximately 9:15 (lineup behind the Porter School at 8:30). The Forest Park High School band will not play this summer because of COVID-19 restrictions. The Iron County Sheriff’s Department will lead the parade around the village circle.
    The Alpha-Mastodon Fire Department will serve free ice cream and cracker jacks after the parade.
    At approximately 11 a.m., there will be kids’ games (specifics to be determined and will be based on social distancing).
    The Alpha Senior Center will serve hot dogs, sloppy Joes and red, white & blue short cakes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Curious Pig will also serve food with menu to be determined as of last week.
    Musical entertainment will be on tap starting at 3 p.m. with a show by Arvon. At 6 p.m. Sons of Legend take the stage and play until dusk.
    When the skies darken, the annual fireworks show will begin. This year, Spielbauer Fireworks of Green Bay will put on the show.
    Donation cans to support the Fourth of July activities will be located at various east side businesses.
    “We want to emphasize that we’re doing all this in accordance with CDC guidelines and social distancing,” said Mike Bjork, who added there are approximately 45,000 square feet around the grounds.
    Bjork did recommend that although there will be some picnic tables on the grounds (distanced appropriately) that those attending bring bag chairs to use to keep social distancing in place.
    As previously stated, Hematite Township Supervisor Joe Hoenig said there will be no official township endorsed Fourth of July activities this summer. “We want to go along with the governor’s orders (on crowd size),” he said.