St. Regis cancels July 4 events

Mineral Independent | June 17, 2020 7:01 PM

COVID-19 concerns have prompted the cancelation of organized July 4 festivities in St. Regis this summer.

The St. Regis Community Council met June 9 and considerately deliberated the fate of the Fourth of July events that traditionally draw hundreds of spectators to the small town each year.

“I went to the health department and the commissioners, and I flat out asked is there any way for St. Regis to have a normal Fourth of July this year?” said council secretary Glenn Koepke. “It was met with a room full of blank stares and silence.”

St. Regis’ old-fashioned July 4 celebrations are hard to come by these days. In the past the smell of pancakes and sausage links would lure locals and visitors into the St. Regis school cafeteria to start the day with a free breakfast.

Then spectators would line both sides of Mullan Gulch Road through town from the Dog House Saloon all the way down to Mullan Square to watch the parade.

Once the parade was wrapped up everyone headed toward the park for free hotdogs, cotton candy, and a kid’s carnival and games. A patriotic display of fireworks caps off the holiday beginning at dusk from the St. Regis Fire Department and hundreds of visitors.

With the current phased reopening parameters, the July 4 activities that the town is accustomed to is unfortunately not possible.

“The parade is not the problem. It’s the lined streets of people, it’s enforcing social distancing, the liability, and keeping numbers under 50,” Koepke said,

District 14 Representative Denley Loge was also present at the meeting and felt strongly about heeding precautions and knowing the council’s limitations.

“Our local health department is simply following guidelines, they aren’t the bad guys. This isn’t about fear it’s about public safety, and right now we have to consider that,” Loge said.

The Community Council carefully poured over the directives handed down from the state which each county is responsible for implementing.

It includes handwashing and sanitation rules, detailed explanation of how social distancing will be maintained. An application for large social gatherings must be submitted and approved by the local health department before moving forward.

Council president John Cheesman stated “by filling out that form we are taking on responsibility for the whole town, and if someone gets sick, that’s on us.”

Ultimately the council voted against being the organizers and promoters of this year’s events, which include the parade, the carnival, and the fireworks. However, the notion was discussed of a more spontaneous parade of sorts.

Throughout the spring during the course of the pandemic area towns have gathered on a weekly basis to do “cruise” nights. It was recommended that by being unincorporated from the community council, perhaps the towns people could conduct a “parade” of their own.

Using social media, someone could define a meeting point and a time, participants would remain in vehicles and social distance.

“I think that could work, just make it more spontaneous,” Fire Chief Jerry Dockter said. “I know it’s a bummer to have everything canceled but everyone is having to follow some tough policies right now.”

Dockter and the St. Regis Fire Department put on the impressive fireworks display each year at the community park. With social distancing measures they are being forced to get creative in trying to put on some kind of a show.

“We can’t tell all of these people to come gather at the park, it just wouldn’t work,” Dockter said.

But he hopes to still create some form of patriotic celebration for the town of St. Regis. It may not look the same, or be in the usual location, but in the weeks to come the department is hoping to conjure up a plan to spread some red, white, and blue joy that evening.

Dockter shared that the department is in need of donations to purchase the fireworks this year. Without the usual parade route supporters, and fewer contributions from already struggling area businesses funds are short.

Donations can be sent to the St. Regis Fire Department at P.O. Box 9, St. Regis, MT 59866.