Kennesaw’s annual July 3 Salute to America celebration might be rescheduled for September this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
At Monday’s city council work session, Parks Director Steve Roberts suggested a new date of Sep. 12 due to the possibility that social distancing requirements might prevent it from happening. If the city moves forward with the original July 3 date, planners will have to start placing deposits this week on the bands and equipment that won’t be refundable should the event be cancelled.
The fireworks can be rescheduled without penalty for any time in 2020, but will incur a 20 percent restocking fee if not used before 2021, according to Roberts.
Planning of the 2020 event proved challenging even before coronavirus entered the scene, due to space constraints downtown. New construction has made it unsafe to launch fireworks from previously used locations, so the city considered moving the event to Swift-Cantrell Park. That idea was strongly opposed by downtown businesses which faced losing one of the most lucrative days of the year.
A committee of city employees, business owners and council members Tracey Viars and Doc Eaton formed to find a solution and were able to secure the downtown parking lot behind the Southern Museum of Civil War & Locomotive History. Real estate investor Dale Hughes owns the surrounding property and had given permission for the city to move forward with its plans.
“Hopefully when we do the Sep. 12 date, it will be like re-launch to life in Kennesaw. That’s what we’re hoping for,” Viars said.
Council member Pat Ferris suggested keeping the July 3 date, but scaling the event down to just fireworks, without bands, food and tables.
City Manager Jeff Drobney said the committee discussed a fireworks-only event for July 3, but downtown business owners strongly rejected the suggestion as fewer people in attendance, many of whom might stay in their cars, would hurt business. Drobney and Viars said the business owners on the committee preferred the September date, which they hope will include all the traditional activities.
“To say in 45 days we’re gonna have 10,000 people in a few block area is just too much of a stretch…at this point I’m leaning toward moving it to September and give us some time to work out the logistics of what it looks like,” said council member David Blinkhorn.
Mayor Derek Easterling said the issue will be on next week’s agenda so a decision can be made. He also said he wanted to weigh any new information that might arise from Gov. Brian Kemp’s Tuesday address.
Council will also vote on the final list of proposed Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax projects to go on the 2020 ballot. If passed by voters in November, the money will start being collected in 2022. The total estimated SPLOST budget is $34.5 million with an additional $3 million from Cobb County.
Kennesaw’s top priorities include phases 8-12 of Depot Park and an amphitheater for an estimated $6 million. Phase 2 of the recreation center, with a gymnastic facility and another multi-sport gym, is listed for $3 million, and will come from the agreement with Cobb County.
A new public safety facility, which will house the police department, emergency and 911 operation is also a priority and estimated at $10 million.
Rounding out the budget: a public works renovation, cyber security upgrades, Sardis Street extension and overpass, and various sidewalk and street resurfacing projects.
Meetings are still being conducted via Zoom and being streamed on the city’s Facebook page Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Citizens can offer public comment on agenda items and any other topics by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org no later than 6:00 p.m. the night of the regular meeting.
Rebecca Gaunt earned a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master’s degree in education from Oglethorpe University. After teaching elementary school for several years, she returned to writing. She lives in Marietta with her husband, son, two cats, and a dog. In her spare time, she loves to read, binge Netflix and travel.