Social media has been filled with rumors, hear-says and unofficial data regarding the Fourth of July activities this year. But now it's official.
It's been a long time since we've spent the Fourth of July here in the Portage Lakes without any organized fireworks, boat parade or sand castle building contest to help celebrate our freedoms via this nation's birthday.
For 35 consecutive years, we have spent a minimum of $10,000 annually launching firework displays. As many of you already know, it has grown so large it's now considered to be one of the largest privately funded firework extravaganzas east of the Mississippi and quite possibly the largest in the state of Ohio; so big, that year after year literally thousands park their vehicles along roads surrounding the lakes, hop into boats with others and anchor them bow to stern or starboard to port in any of the waters surrounding Mason's Point launch site or join hundreds upon hundreds in their waterfront yards for picnics, liquid refreshments or front row seats watching the displays.
For the annual July 4th Boat Parade, it's even longer. Founded in 1976, this year would've been the 45th consecutive year the Portage Lakes residents and others would have enjoyed it. I don't have the figures on the annual Sand Castle Building contest held just after the boat parade at the new state park beach off Manchester Road in New Franklin, but I suspect it's close to 20 straight years.
Now, through no fault of the organizers nor none of the government, that consecutive streak has officially ended. If any blame must be placed, blame it on the novel coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease it causes. As of this writing, more than 1,475 cases of the virus causing at least 185 deaths have been attributed to patients just in Summit County.
Dano Mundy, chairman of the multi-member Portage Lakes Fireworks Association and the one mostly responsible for making it such a huge success that it is today, personally pleaded with the head of the parks division of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources in Columbus for permission to launch this year's show, figuring by the end of June all lock-downs would be lifted.
Mundy did everything in his power to make it happen, but unfortunately, he just couldn't work magic. The state saw it differently and refused to issue a permit.
According to the state, the boat parade, sand castle building contest and firework display would violate the Ohio's social distancing policy of maintaining a minimum of six feet between others during this pandemic and allowing more the ten to congregate in a group for any one event.
When my wife, Peggy, heard that, she chuckled, saying “Ten! Good grief, there's more than that just at Dano and his wife, Tammy's house alone. They arrive early to enjoy the picnic and pick out a good front row seat along the waterfront to watch the fireworks!”
Nevertheless, as a result, all activities were officially canceled, not postponed. No future date for this year was set and none will be. The next organized Portage Lakes July 4th celebration will take place during the early summer of 2021.
As for the annual antique and custom boat show held every year at the Olde Harbor Inn on Portage Lakes Drive in Coventry Township, there has been no word. As soon as I hear, I'll include it in one of my future columns.
Please remember that the Portage Lakes are part of the Ohio State Park system, and any violation of the state laws or policies, including having open alcoholic containers aboard boats subjects the violator to the full extent of the law. Also respect their decision. That means no boat parade, private or otherwise, and no fireworks, private or otherwise. The ODNR and Summit County Sheriff will be out in boats patrolling the lakes. We're all in this together so let's make the best of it and stay safe.
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