ROCKWALL, Texas - The coronavirus pandemic is impacting Fourth of July celebrations, with some events being canceled altogether and some making adjustments for health and safety purposes.
The city of Rockwall, unlike most larger cities in North Texas, is celebrating July 4th with a full slate of events, including a parade held Saturday morning.
“Celebrate Fourth of July,” Dorene Turner said.
“We spread ourselves out, just amongst family right down here,” Steve Wilhelms added.
“Everybody is safe. Everybody is spread out,” Molly Bolli said.
“We know God’s in control, ultimately, and he’s even over control of corona,” Ben Fox said.
The city discussed the idea of cancelling events because of an increase in statewide COVID-19 cases, but the city council decided against it.
“So it’s all for personal responsibility. It’s not the government telling you what you have to do. This is freedom, today we’re celebrating Fourth of July. This is freedom in America and we can’t just stay inside our houses for the rest of the year,” Rockwall Mayor Jim Pruitt said.
The city encourages people to spread out and, if they feel like it, wear a mask.
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“We live out, actually, in Dallas and there are no parades out there, they’re all canceled. So we came all the way out here,” Michael Preciedo said.
Dallas is not granting exemptions to gatherings of more than 10 people, which are banned in Governor Greg Abbott’s order.
Leah Dailey brought her sister and friend from out of town to a mostly empty Reverchon Park Saturday.
“Very uncertain and weird,” Dailey said. “And we haven’t seen each other since December. Yeah, we haven’t seen each other in a really long time.”
Denise Vinole is in town from California to visit her granddaughter.
“And as I say, en route, Texas closed down,” she said.
Their Independence Day is low-key.
“Not a lot to do, well, you know 2020 has been kind of the year that doesn’t exist,” Vinole added.
The Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden is allowing a limited number of visitors.
“This is different, this is totally different because usually I get fireworks, and go to the fireworks and everything every year,” Mel Edington said.
It’s Edington’s birthday, and it’s also 32 years to the day since she met her husband, Don, at a Fourth of July party for U.S. soldiers in England, where he was stationed.
“I didn’t know it was her birthday until she told me. I gave her a peck on the cheek and she said she was impressed by that because I didn’t just try to kiss her, you know, so I guess that was a good thing for me,” Don Edington recalled.
They’re making the most of a different type of celebration than year’s past.
“In the worst of times, we have to remember our history, our heritage,” Ken and Jane Sparks said.
People in Rockwall hope and believe they can safely celebrate.
“We have to continue with our lives,” Mark Johnson said.
“I think that if everybody would just be smart, I think we’d all be in great shape,” Elaine Finley added.
Rockwall — a city of more than 40,000 people — is nearing 400 COVID-19 cases with 16 deaths.