The Elk Grove City Council on April 28 voted to move forward with two city-hosted summertime events: A Salute to the Red, White & Blue, and a new event called Diversity Month.
That action came as a result of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s April 6 announcement that California’s economy could fully reopen on June 15, if the state’s current COVID-19 trends continue to improve. This plan is dependent on whether the supply of COVID-19 vaccines is sufficient and COVID-related hospitalizations are low.
While the majority of restrictions on gatherings and events would be lifted, Californians would still be required to wear face masks and undergo social distancing measures. They would also continue to be encouraged to get vaccinated.
The World Health Organization’s March 11, 2020 declaration that COVID-19 had become a global pandemic led to the prohibition on large, public gatherings.
As a result, both the city’s A Salute to the Red, White & Blue, and Multicultural festivals were cancelled in 2020. However, the city’s annual 4th of July fireworks show was presented last year in an undisclosed Elk Grove location, while a local television station broadcasted the show.
A Salute to the
Red, White & Blue
During their April 28 meeting, the council deliberated whether the city’s annual 4th of July festival and fireworks show should return to its original format, with some modifications, or approve the “4th in a Box” proposal to encourage residents to decorate their homes with colorful décor and submit photographs online to be included on a citywide map.
Those submitting entries would have had the opportunity to win a gift box supporting an at-home, Independence Day celebration.
The council ultimately decided to move forward with the Salute to the Red, White & Blue event, which is traditionally Elk Grove’s largest attended annual event, drawing more than 20,000 people to Elk Grove Regional Park through its fireworks show and festival experience that includes food and music.
This year’s edition of the city’s 4th of July celebration, in its modified state, will not include activities such as the pie-eating contest, carnival games and the children’s bicycle parade.
Council Member Pat Hume spoke in favor of holding the city’s annual 4th of July event.
“I think we’re at a point where we should put something on,” he said. “We need to start returning to a sense of normalcy, and people need to grow up and respect their own boundaries.
“If you want to come out and wear a mask, please do that. If you want to come out and not wear a mask, please respect the fact that some people may not appreciate that. If you want to stay home and do your own thing, because it’s too soon for you, I respect that completely.”
Council Member Kevin Spease also shared his reasoning for wanting the Red, White and Blue event held this year.
“We’re about two and a half months from July, the vaccine is readily available (and) we’re at a point where people are needing to be convinced to take it – they should be taking it by the way,” he said. “We recently had loosening of restrictions on outdoor masking.”
The lone vote for the “4th in a Box” alternative came from Council Member Darren Suen.
“There’s going to be an expectation that when that 4th of July event comes forward, it’s what they remember from before,” he said. “If we’re talking about some alternative where, OK, no pie-eating contest or adjustments here, please wear a mask, and hopefully this person won’t be offended, because they’re wearing a mask or not wearing a mask, I just think that why go through all that when the next year, we could certainly – we would hope – go full bore in getting back everything that was remembered from before, without holding back at all,” he said.
Jodie Moreno, the city’s community events and special projects coordinator, explained why the city’s staff did not choose to present last year’s approach to a televised 4th of July fireworks show as an option to the council.
“We got a lot of mixed feedback – that ‘I couldn’t see it,’ ‘I didn’t know it was being shot off,’ they didn’t know it was on TV,” she said. “We’re always looking every year to try something different, to try and please everyone, which is really hard with (the) 4th of July. But that’s one of the reasons that we didn’t opt for the (option of the fireworks) broadcast this year.”
Elk Grove’s Diversity Month coming in August
While the fourth Saturday in August is traditionally designated for the city’s hosting of its Multicultural Festival, the council provided direction for the event to be expanded from a one-day event to a Diversity Month celebration.
With that direction, along with the city’s Diversity and Inclusion Commission’s desire to move forward with that change, this festival will be extended to other venues within the city, and also reduce crowd sizes by spreading activities over several dates and locations.
A city staff report notes that opportunities for Diversity Month could include a variety of weekly cultural entertainment at the NeighborGood (farmers’) Market, multiple giveaway events, a restaurant week celebration focused on cultural food in the city, an outdoor cultural art show, and a day of interfaith celebration.
The council’s decision to select Diversity Month, instead of the one-day Multicultural Festival was made through a 3-2 vote, with Spease and Vice Mayor Stephanie Nguyen preferring that the one-day, large gathering event be held with modifications at the District56 center.
In supporting the one-day Multicultural Festival and A Salute to the Red, White & Blue, Spease mentioned that an alternative could be selected for both events, if necessary.
“If for whatever reason things get turned back, we can always make other decisions,” he said. “But I think right now, let’s move forward.”
Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen shared her support for the monthlong celebration.
“We have tremendous opportunities, not only with our farmers’ markets, but other options throughout the city to truly showcase different cultures and provide additional opportunities, rather than a one-shot (single-day) opportunity,” she said.
“Let’s try something that’s broader and then you can compare and contrast for the following year. Maybe this actually may be better, because we’ve seen such a tremendous decline (in attendance) from the very first Multicultural Festival to the one just prior to COVID(-19). So, this provides options for us, I think, as a city to look at having a greater impact,” the mayor said.