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Fourth of July celebrated differently during pandemic

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LAKE COUNTY – The Fourth of July celebration in Lake County was a little different this year after many traditional activities were canceled due to the COVID-19 virus, including powwows, parades, rodeos, firefighter fundraising, and city-run fireworks displays. 

Despite the closure of many activities, people still found things to do. Carter Clinkenbeard with the family-owned Pyromania Fireworks, located in Evaro and Polson, said that more people were buying fireworks this year. The business started on the top of Evaro hill in 1971.

“We had more business early in the season than usual,” he said. “A lot of people were doing shows for themselves.” He explained that people wanted to celebrate the holiday at home, and by July 5, the two locations were just about sold out and not able to stay open through the weekend. 

Clinkenbeard said people were social distancing as much as possible as they made firework selections. “We had people wearing masks in the tent and others purchased online for our curbside pickup,” he said.

The Arlee Volunteer Fire Department was unable to have its annual fundraising pancake breakfast on the mourning of the Fourth of July. The event usually brings in around $10,000 that is used to buy needed equipment. 

“We haven’t decided what to do without that fundraiser,” said Arlee Department chief Ken Light. “COVID is making things complicated.”

This is the first time in about 35 years that the department hasn’t had the breakfast, and the first year in a long time Light has had a relaxing holiday. He said he is usually exhausted by the end of the day with all the events in Arlee.

“This year, I went on a ride on my trail motorcycle and stayed home,” he said. “There was no breakfast, no powwow, no rodeo; it was a lot different this year.”

The department is trying to figure out what to do as far as a different style of fundraiser, and Light said volunteers might try something online later this year. “We have a really great volunteer service here,” he said. “And a community that likes to come out and support the department.” 

As far as the fire season, Light said that it’s been a wet year. “We’ve had so much moisture that we haven’t had the grass fires that we usually have, but you never know, we might not get any more moisture and then we’ll have fires. It all depends on the weather.”

Despite many activities being canceled, U.S. Highway 93 was full of cars. On Friday, traffic was backed up from the Charlo intersection, going north, to Polson with cars moving at about five mph late in the afternoon. Traffic around town in Polson was also bumper to bumper at times. 

On Saturday morning, about a dozen boats lined up on Flathead Lake for a President Trump Boat Parade where people displayed flags as they circled the Polson area of the lake. The event allowed people to celebrate and continue social distancing. 

As the sun set, fireworks displays could be seen across the valley. The Tiki Bar had live music for people to enjoy in Polson. The Evaro Bar and Casino hosted festivities with a fireworks show and games. Lakeview Bar and Grill, dubbed “The Shoe” in Polson also had live music and a fireworks show. 

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