GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Crowds of people celebrated the Fourth of July at Ah-Nab-Awen Park in Grand Rapids on Saturday.
The Grand Rapids fireworks, presented by Soaring Eagle Casino, returned after being canceled last year due to COVID-19 concerns. This year’s event was the first large-scale gathering held within the city since Michigan lifted all coronavirus restrictions in June.
“To be honest with you, probably 60 days ago I didn’t think this was going to happen,” said Russ Hines, CEO of Riverbank Events and Media. “When the governor eased the restriction and we realized we could have large gatherings again, we went into hyper-fast mode to try and figure out how to make this happen.”
According to the city’s Office of Special Events, roughly 500 permitted events are held each year.
Organizers say community members needed the connection with one another, which is why they rushed to make this year’s celebration happen.
“That emotional infrastructure is so important to have in community,” said Evette Pittman, special events manager. “When events were basically prohibited, we lost that here in the city, so now that we are fully open and fully back in business, we’re able to rebuild those relationships, those partnerships and collaborations.”
The event featured live entertainment and food vendors.
“Just some family fun,” said Helen Oldes, who was in attendance with her five children. “With everything going on with the pandemic, I feel like it’s the perfect time to get out now.”
“It just makes me feel alive again,” said Maureen Dorough, a Grand Rapids resident. “It feels so good. We moved here a year and a half ago and my husband retired. The idea was move downtown and enjoy all the festivities, so we moved down here, he retires, [then] COVID hits. We’ve been waiting for this.”