Chamber cancels fireworks; Town of Franklin planning alternative Fourth of July celebration

Fireworks paint the sky over Joint Forces Training Base, Los Alamitos, California, July 4, 2018. The installation partners with local communities to present the community's annual July 4 Fireworks Spectacular event. The nearly five-hour event featured vendors and military displays, musical performances, and culminated in a 25-minute fireworks show set to patriotic music. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Airman Crystal Housman)

Brittney Lofthouse – Contributing Writer

“The show must go on,” at least for residents of Macon County. The town of Franklin voted to approve an alternative Fourth of July fireworks celebration this summer – adhering to social distancing guidelines and safety precautions. 

Over the last few years, town officials have built up their Independence Day Celebration, working to brand it as a key event as a mountain destination. What usually begins with a Patriotic Parade with pets and their owners donning the stars and stripes, and concluding with water activities and watermelon eating contests – will look drastically different this year due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

The Town of Franklin has organized morning and early afternoon Fourth of July activities downtown – ahead of the countywide celebration hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the recreation park in the afternoon, which served as a prelude to one of the largest firework displays in Western North Carolina. However, the Chamber of Commerce announced earlier this month that due to the pandemic, they would not be hosting the annual celebration – which draws thousands of people to the park. 

“Due to the Coronavirus pandemic and the NC Governor’s Executive Order 141 limiting mass gatherings, the Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has made the decision to postpone the fireworks display at the Macon County Recreation Park,” the Chamber posted on social media. 

“This decision was not made lightly. We look forward to the day when we can safely come together for this fun community event again” said Candy Presley, Chamber Board president.

With the Chamber bowing out of this year’s celebration, the town of Franklin wanted to provide at least some sort of normalcy for the summer and decided to host a drive-in fireworks display. 

The town of Franklin will be contracting with a company from Lexington, N.C., to provide the fireworks display on July 4. The fireworks will be deployed from the Whitmire Property located on the Highlands Road and will be visible all across town. 

“While we won’t be able to do our normal Fourth of July festivities, we thought this would be a great way to be patriotic and give back to the community,” said Town Manager Summer Woodard. 

Woodard noted that the Whitmire property will not be open for the public to access, and residents are encouraged to park around town to view the display. The town of Franklin is working with the local radio station to arrange for patriotic music to be played over the radio leading up to the fireworks display. 

Woodard also noted that she plans to reach out to local property and business owners such as the vacant parking lot at the old Walmart, to see about opening up additional spaces for viewing opportunities. 

The town of Franklin will need to get final approval for the firework display from county commissioners, who routinely approve commercial fireworks displays each year. 

The town of Franklin voted unanimously to approve the display which is expected to begin shortly after dark, around 9:30 p.m., on July 4. Additional details regarding the celebration will be released at a later date.