The fight against the coronavirus is not yet finished, and unfortunately neither is the list of cultural casualties inflicted by the pandemic.
COVID precautions will force Pittsfield to forgo its Fourth of July Parade for one more summer. The Independence Day event that normally looms large among the city’s summer festivities dates back to 1824. Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, only two years — 1947 and 1977 — passed without a Fourth of July Parade in Pittsfield. This is the first time in the parade’s 197-year history that it has been canceled two years in a row.
It’s an outcome as sad as it is historic, underscoring the reality that the viral enemy against which we’ve made great strides is not yet fully defeated.
State strictures to curb the spread of COVID are set to expire Aug. 1. The commonwealth will progressively loosen rules over the course of the summer, and by the end of the month large outdoor events like parades will be allowed at 50 percent of normal capacity. Parade organizers realize, however, that an event attracting tens of thousands of people along a downtown parade route presents too many logistical challenges to handle in a safe and orderly fashion.
Now, the Parade Committee is in the same awkward position they were last year, knowing that this year’s celebration can’t be the same as in previous years and weighing next steps.
Organizers acknowledged that a repeat of last year’s consolation event — running past parade highlights on Pittsfield Community Television — would likely be less exciting for the second year in a row.
Another option that organizers floated was holding off until the fall and throwing a similarly scaled celebration to cheer on the return to normality that will, ideally, come with the planned lifting of state strictures in August.
One silver lining that remains from last year: Sufficient funds are in hand already, including money left over from the 2019 parade as well as funds raised in 2020 that went unused.
Organizers have said that a fundraising campaign this year would go toward next year’s festivities, while the cash currently banked could go to events this year in lieu of a parade.
We applaud the Parade Committee for getting creative and sticking with the task of trying to bring some fun to the community despite another setback.
It’s also a good time, though, to start thinking — and setting aside resources — to go big and bold for next summer’s festivities. Fundraising this year might be somewhat unpredictable, but that shouldn’t limit what ought to be a grand return for the parade in 2022.
Having to cancel the parade two years in a row is a historic misfortune. Welcoming it back next year should be a historic blowout.