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COVID-19 Changes D.C.’s Summer High-Profile Events

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the District’s summer season with such high-profile events as Fourth of July parades and Juneteenth celebrations having been postponed, canceled or changed to virtual affairs.

The July 4 parades have drawn thousands of people to the District for years, but this summer will be an exception because of the public health emergency Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) declared in March. While the District partially reopened on May 29, with restrictions that no more than 10 people can gather in one place, the mayor made it clear earlier that week that activities such as parades won’t take place in the city anytime soon.

“No permits for parades will be granted under Phase One,” Bowser said at a May 26 news conference.

As a result, the Barracks Row July Fourth parade will not take place, The Informer has learned.

“I have been told that the police can’t support a parade this year so we will cancel this year’s event,” Philip Guire, organizer of the event, said in an email.

Neither will the July Fourth parade sponsored by the Palisades Citizens Association, an event that dates back to 1966.

“We will not hold the parade this summer because of the mayor’s order,” said Avi Green, president of the Palisades Citizens Association. “We are looking at having a virtual parade. It will be different and creative.”

For many years, the National Independence Day parade has taken place on July 4th but the National Park Service has indicated that the event, which takes place largely along Constitution Avenue NW, has been canceled. However, the Trump administration has made it clear that the second annual “Salute to America” Independence Day event will take place, which has drawn the ire of several D.C.-area lawmakers.

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) penned a letter to the secretaries of Defense and Interior on May 26 expressing concerns about a gathering on the National Mall. The letter received the support of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Reps. Anthony Brown (D-Md.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), David Trone (D-Md.), Gerald Connally (D-Va.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), and Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who all requested the administration cancel the event.

“Given the number of individuals that want to try to attend such an event, logistically such an event would be impossible to put on safely,” an excerpt of the letter said.

While July 4th celebrates America’s independence as a nation, many African Americans in the District view Juneteenth, or June 19th, as a day feting freedom also. On June 19, 1865 Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Tex., and proclaimed slavery illegal in the state, making the Lone Star State the last to get the word about the demise of the practice. Since then, June 19th has been celebrated in the city at some level but according to the Juneteenth in DC website, all activities have been postponed.

“Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, our 2020 Juneteenth in DC Festival and Community Learning events will not go forward as planned. We will provide more information about how we plan to observe Juneteenth as the situation changes,” the website said.

The Celebration 2020-Capital Pride Alliance indicated on its website that its June 5-June 14 calendar of activities have been postponed.

“In lieu of traditional Pride events and in-person gatherings, Pride 2020 Reimagined will include new programming for Pride Month this June, ongoing monthly programs and potential events for later this Fall dependent on social distancing requirements at that time, the website said.

The 28th annual Giant National Capital Barbecue won’t have its usual booths of food and information on Pennsylvania and Constitution avenues in Northwest this year. Instead, the event will be virtual, said Ira Kress, interim president at Giant Food.

“The [event] is a tradition that we look forward to every year with over 100,000 visitors gathering together to celebrate food, fun and summer while raising money and awareness for USO-Metro and the Capital Food Bank,” Kress said. “With the change in what this new normal looks like, our team was committed to finding a way to maintain all that while creating a truly unique virtual experience we can all take part in safely from home.”

Norton supports Giant’s approach this summer.

“I am grateful that this year Giant is refusing to give into COVID-19 but instead promises an unprecedented monthlong virtual BBQ Battle experience,” she said.

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