Missoula's major Fourth of July weekend firework displays at Southgate Mall and the Missoula PaddleHeads ballpark are set to proceed despite the cancellation of many other summer events due to COVID-19.
The annual Missoula Fourth of July fireworks at Southgate Mall are scheduled for 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 4, but not many other details are listed yet on the mall's website. Southgate Mall general manager Tim Winger said more details will likely be announced later this week.
On Friday, July 3, the Missoula PaddleHeads will host their annual Independence Day fireworks celebration following an outdoor movie at the ballpark, in place of a baseball game that typically precedes the fireworks display.
"We're currently working with the Roxy to put together either a good baseball film or a patriotic movie," said Taylor Rush, PaddleHeads' marketing director.
The PaddleHeads recently started hosting weekly outdoor films at the stadium in collaboration with the Roxy Theater, with group seating spaced out on the field to allow for social distancing. On July 3, people will be allowed to be on the field in small groups for the film and then ushered to the stands to watch the fireworks display.
Firework event organizers are working with the Missoula City-County Health Department to ensure they follow the current requirements for COVID-19. Health Department Public Information Officer Alisha Johnson said all events with a group of 50 or more must have a structured plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which may include things like social distancing measures and protocols to aid in contact tracing.
"This is important considering that numbers are on the rise across Montana, and in Missoula we have the most active cases we've had since the beginning of the pandemic," Johnson said.
Rush said they are hoping to finalize their plans with the health department later this week, which so far include a maximum of 600 people with social distancing measures in place. After the film ends, staff will usher people to assigned seats to watch the display, using empty seats to space out groups.
Rush said they will announce more details later this week. Tickets will be $25 and will include the movie and fireworks display.
Residents who plan to set off their own fireworks will also need to follow city and county regulations.
Debbie Clevidence, owner of Blue Dragon Fireworks, said she doesn't expect to have a problem selling her inventory this year when she opened her fireworks stand for business on Wednesday.
Clevidence said she ordered almost double the amount of fireworks she usually does in anticipation that there may be some manufacturing issues due to COVID-19. She said all of her orders showed up, but she's not worried that she will have problems selling her inventory.
"People need an outlet," she said. "They're ready to be out and celebrate, and this is something they can do at home. They don't have to go someplace and be in a big group."
Clevidence has been selling fireworks in Missoula for 34 years, but this year is the first she has outfitted her stand with hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, plexiglass barriers, social distancing markers and even catalogs that customers can browse from a safe distance.
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