Can Highland Park and University Park residents come together to celebrate Independence Day without a picnic and parade?
The Rotary Club of Park Cities aims to make that work and keep it fun and memorable.
“Rotary still felt it was important to honor the Fourth of July and still have some community-wide celebration,” Sarah Oliai said.
The attorney who grew up in Winnebago, Illinois, is chairing the club’s parade committee for the second year and describes Independence Day as her favorite holiday.
“I grew up in a small town, and the Fourth of July parade was the biggest event of the year in town, so I have a soft spot for that type of celebration,” she said. “It’s just fun. People are in a good mood. It’s festive. Family and friends are together.”
Club members spent weeks considering options for continuing the Park Cities parade in some form before deciding with town and city officials to cancel it because of the ongoing pandemic.
“It’s the single largest event that happens in the Park Cities, and we looked at it from all levels,” Oliai said. “With the logistics of the parade and the amount of spectators it draws, there was no way to follow social distancing guidelines at any level of participation, whether it’s the planning, the participating in, or the spectators.”
“While we are certainly sad about the cancellation, there’s certainly a lot of excitement about planning the new Fourth of July.” -Sarah Oliai
The governments and the Rotary issued a joint statement, which reads in part:
“We know this announcement will come as a great disappointment for many. We are disappointed too. Fittingly though, as everyone strives to keep loved ones and their circle of friends and workplace associates healthy and safe, we also know this decision is consistent with one of the values we celebrate each Independence Day – respect for others. We genuinely thank you for your understanding and support.”
The Rotarians have shifted their focus to planning the alternative celebration, which would likely include an online broadcast Independence Day morning featuring music, patriotic messages, and footage from last year’s parade.
Check peoplenewspapers.com and like the Rotary’s parade page on facebook @ParkCities4thofJulyParade for updates and upcoming information about participating in planned contests.
In the works: yard and neighborhood patriotic decorating contests, a flag art competition for children and youth, and recognition of service projects by Highland Park High School teams.
Historically, before the parade and picnic became the community-wide celebration anticipated annually today, there were smaller block-by-block celebrations.
“We are kind of going back to the roots of how things grew into the parade and the Goar Park festivities,” Oliai said. The Rotary will still recognize its grand marshals, Jim and Dr. Laurie Hitzelberger, and use the celebration to fundraise for the North Texas Food Bank.
So far, donations and matching gifts exceed $61,000 – more than 185,000 meals worth – and the club will continue to accept them through July 4, Oliai said. “While we are certainly sad about the cancellation, there’s certainly a lot of excitement about planning the new Fourth of July.”
Yard Decorating Competition based on the theme “Stars, Stripes, and Service” will include recognition of the top three yards.
Community Spirit Award will go to the block that shows the most festive and patriotic decorations. (Decorations must not block or impede traffic).
Flag Art Competition for children and youth also will incorporate the theme. Judges will determine first, second, and third place winners chosen by age group: younger than 6, 7-12, and 13-18.
Spirit of Service Award will recognize Highland Park High School teams for service projects benefiting the North Texas Food Bank.
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