Local Fourth of July celebrations adjust amid ongoing pandemic, budget hits

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Fourth of July festivities might still look a little different this year with the ongoing pandemic.

While there are new concerns of the Delta variant, cities had to plan their celebrations months ago.

Riverfest, Kansas City’s big Fourth of July celebration, will go on this year, but with changes. It’s free with no fencing or alcohol and reduced activities for kids.

“We wanted to minimize anything where people were touching the same thing over and over and anything that involved somebody being directly in someone else’s face,” said Stefan White with Friends of the River.

Organizers admit they had to take a bit of a gamble signing contracts with vendors over winter, hoping that vaccination rates and other health factors would allow for Riverfest to go on this year. They just got the go-ahead from the city in the past month and said they’re still hoping for big crowds.

“We’d love to see 65, 75, 90,000 people down here in this park,” White said.

But in Prairie Village, it wasn’t a chance they were willing to take. The city opted to have a second-straight year of Village Fest to Go, where instead of big crowds, families can drive through the festival and pick up goodie bags.

“The people who primarily attend Village Fest are under the age of 12, so they are not eligible to get vaccinated,” Prairie Village Assistant City Administrator Megan Buum said. “We do want to keep our little ones safe and their families.”

And for other communities like Lee’s Summit, the ultimate decision to cancel an event like Legacy Blast also came down to money with pandemic-crunched budgets.

“I like a good party as much as the next person, but if it’s not in the bank, I just can’t spend it,” Lee’s Summit Councilmember Trish Carlyle said.

But with plenty of events still taking place across Kansas City, health officials are urging caution.

“Everyone out there, over the holiday weekend, to please be safe and remember the rules of infection control, whether they’re required or not, are the rules that will keep you safe,” said Dr. Steven Stites with KU Health System. “And if you’re not vaccinated, you frickin’ need to have a mask on.”

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