The coronavirus pandemic is taking the sparkle from an Independence Day tradition.

Fourth of July in the Park is canceled this year, said Matt Lohrmann, advertising director for the Union-Bulletin, which co-sponsors the annual celebration.

The decision is “in the best interest of the public health and safety of our community,” Lohrmann said.

The annual fireworks show, which is put on by the city, is still being planned at Walla Walla Community College for July 4. That portion of the celebration is put on by the city of Walla Walla, which also partners with the U-B on the community event portion at Pioneer Park.

Parks and Recreation Director Andy Coleman said a decision regarding the fireworks will be made in the coming weeks with input from Walla Walla County Department of Community Health.

“We are hopeful the fireworks will be able to be held while maintaining social distancing,” Coleman said.

He said Fourth of July in the Park is one of the Walla Walla Valley’s longest — if not the longest standing community events. It draws thousands of people to Pioneer Park for live entertainment with bands and community group performances, food and other vendors. Last year’s event included 85 vendors throughout the park, Lohrmann said.

“It’s a tough decision from an emotional standpoint,” he said. “When you take the emotion out of it there really is no choice.”

In just the first phase of Gov. Jay Inslee’s four-phased strategy for reopening the economy, Walla Walla will not be able to host gatherings of more than 50 people until the final phase. With a minimum of three weeks separating each phase, the timing is too tight for the tremendous planning needed to put the event together.

Lohrmann said about 30 applications had already been received from vendors reserving their spots for the event that includes retail sales, kids activities, fundraisers, informational booths and more.

Full refunds will be provided back to the organizations, Lohrmann said. The event is expected to resume in 2021.

Coleman said the decision is in line with similar celebrations in other jurisdictions, despite the public’s desire to convene and celebrate.

“As much as we hate to see such a long standing event that brings the community together on an annual basis canceled, we are supportive of this cancellation,” Coleman said. “Given the phased opening system that has been put in place in the state it appears that gatherings above 50 people will not be permitted by July 4.”

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Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 509-526-8321.

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.