As COVID-19 cases steadily climb in Bell County, organizers in Temple and Belton are pressing on with some Fourth of July events.
On July 4, the city of Temple plans a drive-in fireworks show at 7 p.m. at Crossroads Park, 1020 Research Parkway, while the Belton Area Chamber of Commerce has set a concert and fireworks show at Schoepf’s Bar-B-Que, 702 E. Central Ave. The Belton chamber previously canceled its annual parade, which brings large crowds within close proximity of each other.
The Belton Area Chamber of Commerce also has other events, such as additional concerts at Schoepf’s and the annual PRCA rodeo, starting July 2 and ending July 4.
Under a new executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who said the state faces a “massive” outbreak of the virus, county judges and mayors have expanded authority over gatherings of 100 or more people.
Additionally, Bell County Judge David Blackburn issued an order on businesses to require customers and staff to wear a mask while on their premises as a way to curb the number of local infections. The order that goes into effect on Monday will be active on Independence Day and includes indoor holiday events.
Blackburn said he has been in several discussions with area organizers and reviewed their plans. The plans, he said, should accomplish the county’s goal: Mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“At least all of the plans I have reviewed in regard to the Fourth of July events and activities in the area have been very cognizant of the COVID-19 situation and have made I think extraordinary efforts to try to mitigate the social contacting that might occur during those events,” he said.
Blackburn highlighted Temple’s celebration.
“What we talked about is minimizing interactions, social contact and maintaining social distancing to the extent that you can,” he said. “I think, for example, the Temple Fourth of July fireworks celebration, at least the plan that I reviewed on that, had implemented all of the measures we’re talking about in this directive in terms of trying to maintain that social distancing.”
The city of Georgetown considered a drive-in fireworks show, but ultimately decided to cancel it because officials thought it would be too risky, Community Impact reported.
“The city of Temple is moving forward with plans for its Fourth of July Drive-in Fireworks Show,” Temple spokesman Cody Weems said. “The city has taken several precautions to ensure this event will meet regulations for health and safety as set by local and state officials.”
As for Belton’s events, Belton Area Chamber of Commerce President Randy Pittenger said they will follow all orders from local and state officials during their celebrations.
“We’re confident that the (Bell County Expo Center) will be providing a safe and welcome environment for our rodeo that runs July 2 through 4. That was one of the specific things that was specifically described in the governor’s guidelines,” Pittenger said. “There will be a 50 percent capacity. All seats are reserved instead of general admission, so we’re confident that they’ve taken the measures to make that a safe and comfortable environment for families that come and we expect a great show.”
Telegram staff writer Joel Valley contributed to this report.