Drought, county fire restrictions prompt Rifle to rethink Independence Day fireworks display
After preparing to set off about $15,000 worth of fireworks during Rifle’s annual Independence Day weekend celebration, Garfield County’s Stage 1 fire restrictions have prompted the city of Rifle to rethink lighting a match.
“It’s pretty unlikely based on those assessments,” Rifle Parks and Recreation Director Tom Whitmore said. “We were hoping (for fireworks), but it’s kind of risky.”
On Monday, the Garfield County commissioners voted to ban the use of fireworks in unincorporated parts of the county, despite a now-former exemption allowing the use of fireworks between June and July 5. Municipalities, however, are exempt from the ban.
On Tuesday, the county announced Stage 1 fire restrictions beginning Friday. This covers a wide variety of restrictions, including the use of fireworks. Professional fireworks shows, however, can still take place but through a permitting process.
Whitmore said the city intends to delay the fireworks display until the “Hometown Holidays” festivities slated for the first weekend in December.
Chances of the county moving to “Level 2” fire restrictions are elevated. Whether they’re conducted professionally, the use of fireworks or other incendiary devices are strictly prohibited in Garfield County.
Despite fire restrictions putting the kibosh on Independence Day pyrotechnics, the city is still preparing to host a holiday jubilee on July 3.
Whitmore said Noodle Soup and Symphony in the Valley are slated to perform at Centennial Park.
“Noodle Soup is part of the symphony group, and they have a different style of music,” Whitmore said. “They have a lot of fun, and they gather a good crowd.”
“The symphony’s fantastic, and they have a great patriotic set,” he added.
Representatives of the Ute Theatre, a local venue in Rifle, will also be setting up a series of speakers and other acoustic devices at the performance area Centennial Park.
“If people come to the amphitheater area of Centennial Park, they can be scattered around the grass and hear good sound out there,” Whitmore said.
In addition, food vendors will be set up, while kids events are slated to take place at Rifle Metro Park near the pool.
There will be no COVID-19 restrictions, but the city is encouraging attendees to wear masks.
“We’re going to suggest to people to bring masks because especially if you’re in line for a vendor or for food, it’s gonna be really compacted,” Whitmore said. “But there is no mandate for masks, so we are not doing any enforcement on that. We’re just trying to ask people to be respectful of other people’s choices.”
Whitmore says a full schedule will be made available online and in the newspaper about a week leading up to the July 3 events.
With downtown construction still underway, Whitmore advises visitors to use the Colorado Highway 13 bypass and head to Centennial Park from the north to avoid traffic congestion.
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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