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Not as much pomp, fewer parades and little in the way of illuminations

4th of July celebrations look different in the age of COVID and fireworks ordinances
Clear Creek Amana football players watch fireworks after the first game in the new stadium in a file photo from 2009. Public safety and city officials strongly recommend people forgo shooting their own fireworks and instead seek out a public display presented by professionals.

IOWA CITY– John Adams commented on the Fourth of July, “It will be celebrated with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
However, with ongoing concerns over the COVID-19 virus and restrictions on the personal use of fireworks, this year’s celebration of Independence Day may well have far less pomp, fewer parades, socially-distant bonfires, and little in the way of “illuminations.”
In 2017, the Iowa Legislature granted the use of fireworks but also allowed municipalities to regulate their use, either to specific days and hours or to forbid their use altogether under penalty of a fine. The legislature also granted the cities the ability to regulate the sale of fireworks.
“Unfortunately, we are required by the state to allow the sale of fireworks; however, we have ability to minimally restrict where the sales occur through zoning,” said North Liberty Fire Chief Brian Platz. “Additionally, we also have the ability to restrict the use. For many reasons, we believe that restricting the use is the safest and, quite frankly, provides for the best quality of life for our residents.”
North Liberty Police Chief Diane Venenga added, “Cities can limit the use but not the sale. It makes it hard to enforce since (they were) purchased legally.”
The annual survey of the cities of Solon, North Liberty, Tiffin, Oxford, Swisher and Shueyville shows the use of fireworks within city limits is prohibited nearly universally, with Shueyville specifying a $500 fine and simple misdemeanor charge upon the issuing of a citation by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office.
In Solon, however, fireworks may be used from July 1 through July 3 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., and on the Fourth of July between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m.
In all cases, so-called novelty fireworks, such as sparklers and snakes, remain legal.
The chiefs’ disdain for John Adams’ illuminations is rooted in cold, hard statistics, in addition to the emotional and psychological trauma the loud explosions cause for some combat veterans and the fear they instill in pets.
The Pet Health Center, in Tiffin, posts warnings on social media every year stating, “More pets go missing on July 4 than any other day of the year!” The center advises pet owners to never use fireworks around pets for the fear they cause, as well as the potential for injury. They also urge people to not take pets to fireworks displays, to consider staying home with anxious pets, or to ensure all windows are securely closed, with shades drawn, and even putting on some music to help drown out the noise. Mild sedatives are also available, only after consultation with a veterinarian, to help especially anxious dogs.
The toll on property and the physical trauma incurred is also noteworthy. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), fireworks were the cause of 19,500 fires in 2018, including 1,900 structure fires, 500 vehicle fires and 17,100 “outside and other” fires. The fires resulted in five deaths, 46 injuries, and $105 million in direct property damage.
Over 9,000 people were treated for fireworks-related injuries in 2018, according to the NFPA, with half to the extremities, and 34 percent to the eyes or other parts of the head.
“Children younger than 15 years of age accounted for more than one-third of the estimated 2018 injuries,” said the NFPA.
The bottom line according to the NFPA is, “leave fireworks to the professionals.”
But finding a professional fireworks display will be much tougher this year with many shows cancelled.
The City Council in Oxford approved a show for Friday, July 3, as well as the annual Fourth of July Parade the following day, during a June 9 regular meeting. The council urges all attending to follow current CDC guidelines, including staying home if running a fever, having trouble breathing, having a cough or a sore throat. In addition, they urge frequent hand washing, avoiding close contact with others- maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, covering one’s mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others, covering coughs and sneezes, and frequently cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
The City of Coralville announced a drive-in fireworks show on Saturday, July 4, at 9:45 p.m. at the Coralville Youth Sports Complex, located at 2480 Dempster Dr. The show will be available to watch via a live stream at www.facebook.com/Coralville4thFest.