Despite virus risk, a number of July 4 events still set

News Photo by Steve Schulwitz Jamie Miller, left, and Courtney Nunneley look at fireworks for sale in Alpena on Monday.

ALPENA — While many of the annual events in Northeast Michigan associated with Independence Day may have been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, several others are still happening, sure to delight those wishing to celebrate the holiday.

Forecasts indicate weather will cooperate, which means it is likely turnout for fireworks shows should be high.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders limit the number of people allowed at outdoor events in northern Michigan to 250 people, who must wear face masks and stay at least six feet away from people who don’t live in their household.

The fireworks show in Alpena is sure to bring a lot of oohs and ahhs when they begin at dusk on Saturday. The fireworks will be visible from all parks and beaches along the Thunder Bay shoreline, as well as blocks away.

The Alpena Municipal Council voted to continue with the fireworks, though fundraising got off to a late start because of coronavirus-related shutdowns. The community and local businesses raised the needed money to cover the $23,000 cost. The council had also considered cancelling the fireworks or pushing them back as late as Labor Day.

Alpena Mayor Matt Waligora said the fact that the money was raised in about three weeks shows how important fireworks are to residents. He said Independance Day is about celebrating freedom and fireworks are a symbol of it.

“My view is, if we are going to have the fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, they should be on the Fourth of July,” Waligora said. “Besides, moving them back really didn’t make sense when we don’t know what the virus climate will be later in the year. A good number of people wanted them to be on the Fourth, so it didn’t surprise me that they were able to raise the money. That was a clear indicator to me when they should be held.”

Fireworks will also launch from the harbor in Harrisville on Saturday night.

Harrisville Mayor Jeff Gehring said that, for the most part, people in Alcona County and in Harrisville in particular are excited for the fireworks. He said some who have expressed concern about the possible spread of the coronavirus, but he added it is up to them to choose to attend or not.

“The people needed something to look forward to, and I hope people will practice the proper COVID social protocols,” Gehring said. “People are excited, as are the businesses. Many thought the whole weekend would be a giant dud, but, with the weather looking like it is going to be good, we should have a good turnout.”

In Onaway, a day full of events is planned at the Onaway Speedway. Gates open at noon and racing happens throughout the day. There will be popsicles, a bounce house, and drawings for bikes.

The fireworks will be launched at dark, to the north of the speedway.

Onaway Chamber of Commerce President Camron Oberlin said the fireworks are always popular, as is the annual parade. He said the chamber tried to have the parade, but it just wasn’t in the cards this year. Still, he said, having the fireworks will help the psyche of residents and businesses who are struggling right now.

“It will be a big benefit to our community and businesses who depend on a great deal of revenue that is generated on that day,” Oberlin said. “I think the event at the speedway is a good one, and I hope that people can be responsible and safe.”

On Friday, fireworks will shoot off at Long Lake.

Normally, the fireworks take place at the end of June during the Long Lake Lights Festival, but that event was canceled. Residents, however, took it upon themselves to raise money for a show.

The fireworks will be launched from the south end of the lake, near the Sandbar and Grill. There will also be live entertainment outdoors at the bar.

Steve Schulwitz can be reached at 989-358-5689 at sschulwitz@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @ss_alpenanews.com.


Fourth of July events

The coronavirus canceled a number of Independence Day events, but not all. Here’s a roundup of what’s still happening on Saturday.


Fireworks at Long Lake, at dusk


Racing at Onaway Speedway beginning at noon, fireworks after dusk

Alpena fireworks at dusk

Harrisville fireworks at dusk


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)