4th of July celebration at Marathon Park canceled

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Organizers for the Wausau Area 4th of July Celebration have canceled the annual celebration citing COVID-19 concerns. An email sent to media from Kevin Malovrh, managing director stated the decision could not be delayed any longer.

The multi-day, admission-free event offered rides, music, food and fireworks at Marathon Park in Wausau.

Malovrh said they have been monitoring the phasing criteria laid out by the Badger Bounce Back plan. He explained if everything went according to plan, the criteria to just begin allowing groups of hundreds of people to gather would have been around the same time the event was going to happen. He said if their attendance was cut in half, it would impact the event significantly.

"We are outlaying tens of thousands of dollars upfront to get the event going," he said. "Once that decision is made, that money is gone. There is no refund, there is no 'hey, can we please have that back?' It doesn't work that way."

He said he also talked with the health department, vendors, and entertainment. One act already canceled and he said some vendors would not be able to have their full product line up because they cannot get some supplies.

Of course, he also urged safety was the number one concern. While the majority of people who attend the event, Malovrh said they do have many others who come from around the state and outside Wisconsin.

That was a concern Merrill mayor, Derek Woellner, had as well when the city canceled its fireworks show too. He said in a statement:

I want to share my thoughts behind canceling the fireworks.
If Merrill were to have a 4th of July fireworks show, we'd be one of the only shows in the area, and people would come from all over. We know that people from Chicago and Milwaukee, plus many other COVID hotspots, vacation up here during the 4th.

I don't doubt that we could have the fireworks show safely, by keeping people in cars or social distancing in the field. However, there's a limited capacity that we've reached in the past, and proper social distancing would significantly cut that capacity.

Keep in mind, many of the limited spots wouldn't even be occupied by Merrill residents, they'd by taken by people out of town. I saw no sense in spending Merrill taxpayer money, when only a limited amount of people could properly enjoy the show, while risking out of town people taking the limited spots and potentially bringing more of the virus into the city.

The way I saw it, I had two choices. Police the entrance requiring proof of being a city taxpayer, a long, slow process which would require police to be in close contact with each family trying to enter, or, we can do what 90% of the other fireworks shows have done and cancel.

Malovrh said they have floated the idea of having a fireworks-only event if they could find a big enough space where people could either sit in their cars or space out properly. However, he said do not bet on that happening with about a month left before the big day.

This would have been the 75th anniversary of Marathon County's event. Malovrh said they had three new events planned for this year. He said they will save the money designated for 2020 and make 2021's celebration bigger and better.