Whitefish cancels fireworks

by Heidi Desch
Whitefish Pilot | June 24, 2020 7:11 AM

The annual fireworks show over Whitefish Lake on the Fourth of July has been canceled.

The Whitefish Chamber of Commerce made the decision last week to cancel the event after failed attempts over the past month to relocate the show to a location that would allow for social distancing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event typically draws upwards of 5,000 people to City Beach.

Chamber Executive Director Kevin Gartland said the chamber has been working steadily to make the show happen, but it became apparent that it just wasn’t possible.

“In the current situation it just wasn’t feasible,” he said. “And all the alternatives we considered had flaws that just wouldn’t be possible to overcome.”

The annual event is sponsored by the chamber and supported through private donations.

Gartland said the chamber explored two other possible locations at Big Mountain Ranch and at Smith Fields, but both of those had challenges that couldn’t be overcome including that holding the fireworks show over land rather than the lake increased the cost up to $7,000.

“When fundraising for it, half our donors are private individuals on Whitefish Lake who contribute to the show to view it from their properties,” he said. “We didn’t want to dig ourselves into a big hole with the extra cost.”

The Fourth of July parades in both Kalispell and Bigfork have already been canceled.

Gartland said canceled events in other locations also would have put a strain on the Whitefish event.

“We’re probably would have had an amazing turnout with being the only event in the county, but more people also created safety concerns,” he said. “We hope to be back in 2021 bigger and better than ever.”

The Whitefish Arts Festival on July 3-5 in Depot Park is still set to occur. The event is organized by the Whitefish Christian Academy. The weekend festival in its 41st year includes free entertainment, food and juried artists booths.

Shannon Fremont-Smith, director of the festival, says the event will be smaller this year, but all of the categories of art will still be included.

“We reached out to our artists and about 60% of them said they wanted to participate,” she said. “It’s really important for artists to be able to participate because many of them in our show only sell handmade items person to person only and not online.”

Fremont-Smith said aisles between the vendor booths will be increased so as to encourage social distancing and attendees will be asked to wear face masks.

“We’re leaving it up to individual artists, but they make require the people who enter booths to use hand sanitizer and wear a face mask,” she said. “We’re telling people who want to see the whole show to bring a face mask with them.”

The chamber’s Huckleberry Days Arts Festival is still set for Aug. 7-9. The event also takes place at Depot Park.

Gartland said the event will include extra spacing to allow for social distancing similar to the Whitefish Arts Festival.

“It was really important to try to preserve those events,” he said. “Those festivals draw folks who sell their wares touring the whole region and all of those shows have been canceled. It’s important for them to have a place to sell and also bringing in people to stop at businesses in town. We’re committed to doing it and doing it safely.”