PORT TOWNSEND — Fourth of July celebrations in Jefferson County on Saturday will look a bit different from those of other years because of COVID-19 concerns.
Many traditional celebrations are being modified or canceled to discourage large crowds from gathering.
Traditional celebrations at Fort Worden will be quieter this year.
“Fort Worden State Park will be gloriously the same and startlingly different this Fourth of July,” said Aislinn Palmer Diamanti, Fort Worden operations executive assistant.
“No fiddle players under every tree, no tug-of-war on the parade grounds.”
Summer staff at Fort Worden have been significantly reduced due to COVID-19, requiring closure of many buildings, such as the gift shop and campground restrooms.
The campgrounds, which are run by Washington State Parks, are open but are booked through October.
Those visiting Fort Worden on the Fourth of July can access roads to the beach and hiking trails as long as they have a Discover Pass. The park itself will be closed at dusk.
Additionally, the annual “Fourth at the Fort” fireworks show has been canceled, but the company behind the show is encouraging a different kind of celebration in its absence.
The Production Alliance (TPA) has been the company behind the ”Fourth at the Fort” fireworks show for the past five years.
This year, because of COVID-19 and national unrest, owner Danny Milholland is challenging residents and Port Townsend visitors to go “Fallow on the Fourth.”
“To fallow is an integral part of farming in which cultivated land is left dormant to improve the health of the soil,” Milholland said.
“We use this metaphor to introduce our request for pause and reflection on this Fourth of July,” he added.
TPA is working with Jefferson County Anti-Racist Fund, Black Lives Matter of Jefferson County and Fifty Shades of Brown in a solidarity effort to use the Fourth of July as a day of reflection and education given recent national unrest.
“My team and I … we wanted to do something that met this time and honored the change that we are all going through together, as well as the social justice movements happening,” Milholland said.
TPA has come up with an activity that will run through Monday that challenges people to use social media to share their visions of change that they would like to see in the world.
Participants are asked to share an image, video or text-based post on either Facebook or Instagram using #TPAVisions4Change.
Participants can share up to three images, videos or texts and in doing so are entered to win one of three gift baskets made up of locally sourced items from Jefferson County businesses.
“The gift baskets are kind of recycling ideas that I’ve done in the past,” Milholland said. “In terms of the intention and alignment with the ‘Fallow on the Fourth,’ by encouraging people to pause and reflect, then the Visions for Change piece follows that with a request for sharing visions and ideas that people have.”
Milholland added the visions could range from personal to local to national to international.
“The hope is that we can see people’s visions and reflect on them, and see what visions are really resonating,” Milholland said.
While many of the traditional fireworks shows have been canceled in favor of social-distancing practices, East Jefferson Fire Rescue put out a statement on their Facebook page reminding Jefferson County residents to be cautious when using fireworks and that the use of fireworks within Port Townsend city limits is illegal.
“Using consumer fireworks on and around our nation’s birthday is as traditional as cookouts and parades,” reads the post.
“However, Independence Day celebrations also bring fires and injuries due to the misuse of fireworks.
“East Jefferson Fire Rescue, along with the Office of the State Fire Marshal and local law enforcement agencies, urges Jefferson County residents and visitors to use caution when purchasing and using fireworks outside Port Townsend city limits.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected].