Fourth of July celebration goes virtual


Daily file illustration by Grace Luxton

Evanston residents celebrated the Fourth of July through virtual activities including a concert and fireworks show.

Grace Luxton, Reporter

Rather than line the streets of Evanston, residents are encouraged to log online to celebrate Independence Day. The city’s volunteer-led Fourth of July Association will host a day of virtual activities for residents to join in from the socially distanced comfort of their own homes.

The theme for the 99th annual celebration is “Community United Cannot Be Divided.” For celebration manager and featured host Jamie Black, community gathering is most critical during a time when residents cannot physically gather in crowds due to COVID-19 regulations.

“This year, I think we have done our best to make it as exciting as it can be while you’re sitting watching it online,” Black said. “It’s still going to be exciting; it’s going to be fun. But you’re going to be able to do it from the comfort of your home.”

Festivities will commence at 11 a.m. with a livestream featuring a behind-the-scenes look at what traditionally goes into planning the parade, from games and fireworks to musical performances.

At 2 p.m., the virtual parade will begin. In lieu of a physical march, the celebration will consist of a collection of videos from past years’ highlights, greetings and entertainment submitted by the Evanston community, hosted by Black and co-host Jenny Arrington.

“The amount of submissions and support we’ve gotten is great,” said Event Planner Linda Bouvilon. “Coming together and making this all work has been really fulfilling in that sense.”

The festivities will continue into the evening with a recorded fireworks display and concert band performance at 8 p.m. Residents are also encouraged to get involved beyond Independence Day by submitting to and voting on a community patriotic photo contest.

Usually, residents stake out space on Central Street by placing red, white and blue lawn chairs out as early as July 1 to gear up for the celebration. To honor this tradition, community members like resident Iden Nowlin will demonstrate community support by decorating their yards and displaying decorated chairs on the street.

Nowlin, a teacher at Park School, has attended the parade every year since she was a child. She said she and her family share mixed feelings about the online celebration.

“My kids are bummed,” Nowlin said, “so they’ve arranged a bike parade and some races on our block, so that we can still get that same feeling of community that we’re going to miss on Fourth of July.”

One positive of the parade being held online, Nowlin and Black agree, is that friends from far outside of Evanston can join in.

“We have some friends that live out of state that have missed it for a couple of years now, Nowlin said. “They’re really excited that they get to watch it from California and Washington state.”

Amid human rights protests against police brutality, Black said celebrating the Fourth of July means acknowledging the rights granted to U.S. citizens in the First Amendment.

“We have the freedom to make change through our protests,” Black said. “There are plenty of countries where you could not go out and protest the things that are happening in that country, and we are blessed to live in a country where we absolutely can do that, and through that effect change.”

Though the parade won’t be a traditional one this year, organizers hope that the virtual Fourth of July reminds residents of the diverse and welcoming nature of the Evanston community, and builds excitement for next year’s centennial celebration.

Residents can tune in to the Evanston Fourth of July celebration through the association’s Facebook, website or WCGO Radio.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @GraceLuxton

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