Emotions high as Moroni debates whether to hold Fourth of July

Emotions high as Moroni debates

whether to hold Fourth of July


By Suzanne Dean




MORONI—After a sometimes emotional debate that lasted more than an hour at a meeting May 14, the Moroni Council voted 3-2 to go ahead with a modified Fourth of July celebration with the proviso that plans could be subject to change.

The council passed a motion by Councilman Craig Draper calling for the city to tentatively proceed with the Fourth of July celebration, with specific guidelines for some events and possibly cancelling others.

The motion said selection of events could be influenced “by the coronavirus outbreaks around the state” and “could be subject to change.”

While much of the council discussion centered on which traditional events—a turkey dinner, chuck wagon breakfast, parade, carnival, sports competitions, car show and fireworks— should or should not be held, the motion didn’t get into specifics.

Mayor Paul Bailey clearly wanted to go ahead with as much of traditional celebration as possible, including the breakfast and dinner.

Councilwoman Jenifer Lamb, who has directed the celebration for the past three years, said very few events, certainly not the meals, could be staged within state coronavirus guidelines. She wanted to cancel the whole celebration.

“This is a hard thing,” Councilman Fred Atkinson said. “You have passion on both sides. It’s not something that’s right or wrong, good or bad.”

Lamb said she had been attending online meetings multiple times per week for several weeks with the governor, lieutenant governor, state economist and other officials to discuss summer activities.

In the meetings, she was advised to consult with the Central Utah Health Department. At the time of the council meeting, the state and the Six-County Area served by the health department was at the “yellow” or moderate risk level. And Lamb said the health department expected to keep the area at the yellow level for some time.

Guidelines for moderate risk call for no gatherings of more than 50 people and maintaining 6 feet of distance between household groups, among other recommendations.

Lamb said there are a few Fourth of July activities that could be adjusted to the criteria. “Others it will be impossible to do so,” she told the council.

Because of low population density and a rural location, Central Utah has escaped a lot of the effects of COVID-19, she said. But “holiday activities in Sanpete County bring in a large added population from areas that have been hit much harder…”

Taking all the information she has received into account, Lamb said, “I believe it would be socially irresponsible to go against the state government’s and health department’s advice to our community.” Based on what she had learned, she said she was “not in support of going ahead with July Fourth.”

Regarding the meals, Lamb said she didn’t see how volunteers could cook and serve food while staying 6 feet away from each other. She added, “I really don’t see a way to…have assigned seating for family groups that gives everyone a 6-foot distance from everyone else.”

She said sports events, such as volleyball and pickleball, possibly could be held. But if the city stuck with the yellow-level guidelines, participants would have to wash their hands before and after competition, the city would have to make sure no competitor had a fever, and equipment would have to be disinfected multiple times during the competition.

The mayor said the city had sent out a postcard to all households. He didn’t say how many cards were returned. But he said of those that did come back, 85 percent wanted to go ahead with the Fourth. “I think we need to limit some of those events, but people want to have a Fourth of July,” he said.

Bailey said the city attorney had advised that since participation in the celebration was voluntary, if someone caught COVID-19, the city would not be liable. The city could offer masks and sanitizer, he said, “but as Americans, give people the choice” to participate or not participate.

Regarding meals, he said people could line up to be served and to sit down. As people finished eating and left the seating area, people from the line could be let in. He said round tables and could be spaced around the city hall park where meals are served to supplement seating in the park pavilion.

“If we do our best to follow state guidelines, that’s all we can do,” he said.

Councilman Draper noted that events around the state, including the Days of ’47 and Stadium of Fire had been cancelled.

“You figure you’re going to have 1,000 or 1,500 people come in to town…,” he said. “You hope if 1,500 people come in, nobody’s going to be sick. What are the odds? That’s what you’re looking at. It’s tough. Whatever we do, we ought to come together as a community” and support it.

Councilman Beven Wulfenstein, who ended up voting with Lamb to cancel the celebration, said, “In all our decision-making, the first priority is the health and safety of people.”

By the end of the discussion, there seemed to be a consensus that a car show, fun run, pickleball, volleyball and fireworks could be held and social distancing maintained. There was no consensus on the turkey dinner or chuckwagon breakfast.

Councilman Atkinson said the low-risk events don’t attract a lot of participants. “We’re leaving out tons of people if we take other things away,” he said. “And that’s the sad part, whether it’s right or wrong.”

As of Tuesday, a city official said Lamb was continuing as director of the celebration and was in the process of drawing up a schedule of events.