COVINGTON — With COVID-19 numbers greatly increasing in Newton County and no signs of a slow down any time soon, the Covington City Council unanimously voted Aug. 3 to cancel the city’s annual Stars and Stripes Fest for this year and reschedule it for July 4, 2021, with promises of an even bigger and better fireworks show.
In May, the council had approved moving the Independence Day event, which features one of the top four fireworks displays in Georgia, to Sept. 5 during Labor Day weekend. The fest attracts thousands of visitors to the Square and is the city’s biggest event of the year. But with the COVID-19 pandemic still in progress, city leaders now feel it is best to wait until next July 4 to host it again.
Council member Hawnethia Williams summed up the feeling of the council.
“Sept. 5 is right around the corner,” she said. “I don’t see the numbers going down from the fact of the numbers increasing as they have been on a daily basis. It looks like we’re in for a long haul. I know fireworks give people a lot of encouragement and hope, but at this particular time I think we need to think about the lives of our people and their health and their safety, rather than celebration.”
Mayor Steve Horton advised the council that representatives of the fireworks company told him that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, they would reduce their normal 25% penalty for not having the show to 15%, which would be $7,500. But, Horton added, the company also noted that if the city increased its fireworks budget from this year’s $51,000 to $60,000 for next year’s show, that there would be no penalty.
Horton said he felt increasing the fireworks show was reasonable and feasible, especially with 2021 being Newton County’s 200th anniversary and 2022 being Covington’s 200th anniversary.
Robert Foxworth, who has raised funds for the fireworks every year for the last 12 years and now chairs the nonprofit Friends of Covington Fireworks, said increasing the show shouldn’t be a problem.
“My plan was to increase the show to $60,000 next year anyway,” he said. “We’d just have to pay an additional $1,500 for a deposit for next year’s show. The Friends of Covington Fireworks could pay that $1,500 out of our account. With the money the city had already put into it, and I’ve already been raising money, so the city won’t be out of any more money than what they’ve already put out. It will all work out for everybody next year.”
Don Floyd made a motion to reschedule the Stars and Stripes Fest to July 4, 2021. Included in the motion is paying the $1,500 deposit from the Friends of Covington Fireworks account. The motion was seconded and unanimously approved.