By Lucas Vader
Citizens of Delta County generally get to look forward to the same Fourth of July celebration each and every year.
Months in advance, they may be looking forward to barbecuing by Confluence Lake, picnicking in the grass or playing in the water, setting off their individually-purchased fireworks and enjoying the young ones’ delight in such things.
Confluence Park becomes the center of pure, freedom-centric celebration all day long.
It goes without saying that 2020 has not been this way. 2020 has been difficult, it’s been different and it’s been a mess. The COVID-19 pandemic has been on everyone’s minds day in and day out, ruining the year and going so far as to ruin lives.
As Independence Day rolled around once more to celebrate America’s 244th birthday, it led the Delta City Council to make the difficult decision to close Confluence Park to the public on that day. While surrounding cities canceled fireworks shows altogether, the council decided to go forward with the city’s.
Fireworks happened. Spectators were asked not to block any roads or park along any highways. Other than those requirements, they were asked to be responsible for their own safety in consideration of the pandemic, to use common sense when it came to social-distancing practices and to enjoy the show.
The 2020 Fourth of July fireworks display happened for a much more spread-out audience than usual and in a less-than-ideal circumstance, but it happened nonetheless. Surrounding counties can’t say the same.
Cars packed the dirt lot below the Confluence Drive overpass and surrounding parking lots were filled with vehicles as well. Not everyone stayed in their vehicles, but the amount of roaming around seemed minimal. Camp and lawn chairs were set out occasionally from the Arby’s parking lot out toward Tractor Supply.
People also watched from the top of Cory Grade in Austin, and from the ‘dobes down below.
From the standpoint of the Delta Police Department (DPD), the event went well. Police Chief Luke Fedler had previously told the city council that the Fourth of July was the DPD’s busiest day of the year, hands down.
This year, it was they who had to block Confluence Park. It was their job to respond to any incidents resulting in Confluence being closed as well. Officers were stationed at the top of the Confluence Drive overpass, blocking the road down past Bill Heddles Recreation Center and to Confluence Park in the back.
In many people’s eyes, they were the bad guys in this situation. They were in charge making sure things were different in this unusual year.
Afterwards, DPD Public Information Officer Jamie Head relayed Fedler’s report of the event to the press, stating there were no incidents of remarkability during the time of the park closure or during the fireworks show.
“There were a few people who attempted to gain access to the park by vehicle and on foot,” Head said in an email. “Those people were contacted, spoken to and asked to not enter and ultimately made the choice to not go into the park. No tickets were issued to any of them.”
The DPD also reported there was a noticeable increase in vehicular activity in and around the Delta area, to the degree that it is suspected that spectators came from surrounding counties to watch, as their own local shows had been canceled.
“Vehicles were parked everywhere that parking could be found with no notable issues,” Head said. “Businesses were forewarned of this being likely.”
To the DPD’s knowledge, no businesses have made formal complaints. The only complaints they received were from citizens who did not support the fact that the show was still happening, as well as complaints that Confluence was closed.
“We made the event happen!” Head said. “The collaborative efforts of the Delta Police Department, City of Delta, Delta Fire Department and other County-wide Fire Departments, County Administrator Robbie LaValley and the County Health Department were able to overcome concerns of public health, wellness and safety while providing a traditional fireworks show for our community and any visitors who came to see it.”
Head concluded by saying that Fedler would like to extend a “very sincere Thank You to the City of Delta, the Delta Fire Department, Robbie LaValley, the Health Department, all of the other Fire Departments and Colorado State Patrol for their involvement in making this a safe and successful event for all.”