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FAYETTEVILLE -- The long-running Freedom Fest in Gentry won't blast off this year.

Blame covid-19.

Fireworks shows, though, will light the sky in other area cities, but with social distancing measures in place. The governor's phase II directive for large outdoor venues allows a capacity of 66%, according to the Arkansas Department of Health website.

The Gentry Chamber of Commerce announced in May the annual tradition was canceled because of the pandemic. The festival usually draws large crowds to enjoy a car show, children's games and rides, band performances and a large fireworks display to close the night. Attendance was more than 10,000 people last year, Fire Chief Vester Cripps said.

The festival was officially established by city ordinance in 1913, but newspaper archives indicate it was an annual event already in 1896. This year may be the first July Fourth in Gentry for 107 years or more without the annual celebration.

Another Freedom Fest -- the 19th annual in Pea Ridge -- was moved to Sept. 6.

Shows will go on

Bentonville will have its Fourth of July celebration on Saturday, but it likely won't be as crowded as past years.

"An Evening at Orchards Park" at 1100 N.E. John Deshields Blvd. will begin at 7 p.m. with the band Jukebox Confession. The fireworks show will start about 9:30 p.m., according to a Parks and Recreation news release.

Parking will be available throughout Memorial Park. It's recommended people arrive early as some streets will be closed about 8 p.m. Personal fireworks and alcoholic beverages are prohibited, the release stated.

The city has put in several covid-19 safety guidelines to follow the Health Department's most recent directives for large outdoor venues and parks, the release stated. People are encouraged to wear masks, according to the release.

The main stage has been moved to the parking lot to allow attendees room to observe social distancing. Food trucks will be spread throughout the park. Restrooms will be spaced apart and have sanitizing and handwashing stations, according to the release.

The rain date is Sunday.

Bella Vista's fireworks display is set to begin just after dark Friday at the park below Loch Lomond dam on Glasgow Road, according to a news release.

Police will direct vehicles to park with spaces between starting at 5:30 p.m. People who arrive in one vehicle will be required to stay near that vehicle and to follow all state social distancing and mask recommendations, the release said. The move means fewer parking spaces will be available.

Viewing the fireworks by boat on Loch Lomond is allowed. The city has partnered with the Bella Vista Property Owners Association Lake Rangers to ensure those who arrive by boat will maintain a social distancing minimum of 6 feet between boats.

Siloam Springs will host its annual fireworks display Saturday.

"Fire in the Sky" will be at the municipal airport, City Manager Phillip Patterson said at the June 16 city board meeting. Parking will begin at 6 p.m., and fireworks will start about 9:15 p.m., Patterson said.

People will be directed where to park with an 8-foot separation between vehicles.

"It will not have as many parking spaces as historically has been, but I want to go ahead and have the fireworks," Patterson said. "We think that's important."

The rain date is Sunday, Patterson said. This will be the first year Siloam Springs residents can shoot fireworks within the city.

The "July 4th Fireworks Spectacular: A Socially Distant Celebration!" in Rogers will look a little different.

The fifth annual fireworks show will be visible from parking lots surrounding the Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion, including the Pinnacle Hills Promenade on the east side of Interstate 49, according to information from the city website.

Fireworks will be launched from the parking lot adjacent to Hunt Tower starting at 9:30 p.m. Viewers are urged to stay in their cars.

The Walmart AMP will be closed. There will be no family fun activities or performances by the Symphony of Northwest Arkansas at the venue this year.

The event is sponsored by the city and the Walmart AMP.

The Ventris Trail's End Resort firework display will start about 8:30 p.m. Saturday. The event, in its 19th year, is held on Beaver Lake. The display will be just south of marker No. 8 on the lake. People must watch the show from their boats, said Jody Simrell, Ventris' owner/manager.

"We are expecting a mammoth amount of boats," he said. "People want to get out so bad. People need to practice good social distancing and wear a mask if possible. Wear a life jacket, too. Safety is a must."

Farmington will have a fireworks show after dark Saturday. Fireworks will be set off from the Farmington Middle School parking lot. Farmington Cemetery, the school administration office and junior high parking lot at Double Springs and Main Street and the old high school football field won't be available this year for spectators.

The Fayetteville-Springdale Elks Lodge on Crossover Road in Fayetteville will have its annual fireworks show and cookout Friday, according to the lodge's Facebook page.

There also will be fireworks shows about 9 p.m. Friday at Butterfield Trail Village and Paradise Valley Golf and Athletic Club and about 9:15 p.m. Saturday at Fayetteville Country Club, according to a city news release.

More shows at home?

Consumer fireworks retailers have reported sales are off to a record-breaking start, according to the American Pyrotechnics Association.

The association predicts an all-time high in backyard consumer fireworks sales and use as families celebrate Independence Day at home, said Julie L. Heckman, association executive director, in a news release on the association website.

Forty-nine states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico allow the sale and use of some types of consumer fireworks. Massachusetts is the only state continuing to prohibit all consumer fireworks, according to the association.

An Associated Press report noted fireworks have become a nightly nuisance across the country this year.

Theories range from coordinated efforts to blame those protesting police brutality to bored people blowing off steam following coronavirus lockdowns.

Curtis Mullen, who oversees a Hale Fireworks stand just outside of Siloam Springs, said business has been good, but he would like to see a little rain. No rain is bad for sales because people start to get concerned about a burn ban, and they don't buy fireworks, he said.

"No one wants to have $500 in fireworks in the garage," he said.

With more people predicted to shoot off fireworks at home there is the potential for injuries.

Each year around this time, thousands of people are injured badly enough to need medical treatment. Of these, about 50% of the injuries are to children and people younger than 20, according to the National Safety Council.

"Most of the injuries take place from June 16 to July 16," Dr. Danelle Richards, medical director of Emergency Services for Northwest Health, said in a news release.

"Hands and fingers are impacted most often, with head, face or ears next, then eyes and legs. While we'll be working 24/7, we'd rather help to prevent injuries than have to treat them. And, we certainly don't want anyone to lose their life due to fireworks, though people do every year. We encourage everyone, especially parents of young children, to familiarize themselves with the safety recommendations."

Fireworks discharge dates

All legal fireworks, except aerial fireworks that travel on a stick, may be discharged on private property in most cities in Northwest Arkansas during the following times and dates. Legal fireworks can be used on any date in unincorporated areas of Benton and Washington counties.

Bella Vista

• 6 p.m. to midnight, July 3-5

Bentonville

• Noon-midnight July 3-4

Centerton

• 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1-4

Decatur

• Noon to 10 p.m. July 3 and noon to 11:59 p.m. July 4

Elkins

• 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1-5

Farmington

• 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 3 and 5, 10 a.m. to midnight July 4

Fayetteville

• 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on July 1-3 and from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. July 4

Gentry

• 8 a.m. to midnight July 4

Goshen

• 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1-5

Gravette

• Noon to midnight June 28-July 4

Johnson

• 6 to 10:30 p.m. July 3-4

Little Flock

• 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 1-5

Lincoln

• All day July 4

Lowell

• 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 2, 5 and 6; 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 3-4

Pea Ridge

• Noon to midnight July 1-7

Prairie Grove

• 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 4

Rogers

• 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 2-4

Siloam Springs

• Noon to 10 p.m. July 1-3 and from noon until midnight July 4.

Springdale

• 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 1-4

West Fork

• 9 a.m. to midnight July 3-4

Source: NWA Democrat-Gazette

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