Decision about Oakboro 4th of July Celebration still up in the air

One of the biggest events in Stanly County might not happen this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re still undecided,” said Oakboro Assistant Fire Chief Shea Morton.

Morton is also chairman for the 62nd Annual Oakboro 4th of July Celebration.

Morton said a final decision about the status of the celebration will be made sometime next week. No matter what is decided, there will still be fireworks and a raffle will be held.

Although no decision has been made and things are still fluid, Morton said there is a chance that everything — the parade, the rides, the live entertainment, Little Miss Pageant and the Stanly County Fire Queen Pageant — would be canceled if the celebration doesn’t happen.

The last planning meeting for the event, which is always organized by the Oakboro Fire Department, occurred in early May while the state was still in Phase 1 of Gov. Roy Cooper’s reopening plan. At that time, Phase 2 was projected to last only a few weeks; Cooper has since extended it to June 26, which has created more uncertainty for the department in terms of making a decision about the celebration.

“It throws a lot of questions up in the air as of what we’re going to do,” Morton said.

Oakboro is not the only town that is forced to have to make a difficult decision. The town of Faith in Rowan County has decided to cancel its Fourth of July celebration. According to the Salisbury Post, the last time the town didn’t have the celebration was likely sometime during World War II.

Morton said Oakboro has been hosting the event, which is a fundraiser for the fire department, since 1958. The only time the celebration has been canceled was sometime in the early 1970s because the company that handled the rides didn’t show up. In past years, Morton estimates, there have been as many as 30,000 people from all across the state that have descended upon the small town for the celebration.

By the time of the celebration, North Carolina will likely be in Phase 3 of Cooper’s reopening plan (as long as there are no sudden spikes in coronavirus cases) and Morton said no one is sure what that will look like, which adds to the uncertainty.

If the celebration is allowed to happen, it will run from June 29 to July 4, ending, weather permitting, with the annual fireworks display.  

“None of us want to make that decision” to cancel the celebration “because we know what the Fourth of July means to so many people,” Morton said.