Rhinelander council nixes July Fourth parade
Concern over COVID-19 prompts cancellation of the annual event
By Eileen Persike
Rhinelander’s Fourth of July parade will not take place this year.
The Rhinelander City Council voted 5-3 May 26 to cancel the parade but proceed with fireworks and encourage social distancing.
In the public comment portion of the meeting, Mayor Chris Frederickson read a letter from parade organizer Dale Schlieve, who stated he would be willing to organize a parade if the council approves that; he added that five bands have already dropped out from participating. Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce director Lauren Sackett noted in a letter to the mayor that most communities in the area are canceling their parades due to the difficulty of enforcing social distancing, but are moving forward with fireworks.
Rhinelander Police Chief Lloyd Gauthier said his department’s concern during festivities on the fourth is the safety of the people in attendance.
“That would be the enforcement of making sure we have enough officers at intersections…our main focus would be on that part of safety,” Gauthier told the council. “It would not be anywhere near ‘do I have the staffing to make sure that the recommendations put forth by the Oneida County Health Department [are followed].’”
Extending the parade route to allow attendees more space to spread out was discussed. Gauthier said he would need to call in the entire department which would come at a cost to the city’s budget. Additionally, he said that if other parades have been canceled, that could lead to even larger numbers in Rhinelander, which increases the amount of concern he has.
Alderman Gerald Anderson motioned to cancel the parade and go ahead with the fireworks if the city can find a way to make people social distance.
“We don’t have any control over country fest,” Anderson said. “We do have control over these two items. Seems to me there is no way to make sure people maintain safe distances or any other kind of safety.”
After discussion the motion as eventually change to eliminate the word “if,” to remove the social distancing requirement. The motion passed 5-3, with Barnett, Larson, Anderson, Holt and Rossing voting in favor of canceling the parade, and Mikalauski, Daniel and Kelly voting against.