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Due to social distancing efforts, organizers are cancelling events or finding creative ways to celebrate.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Fireworks light up the sky after the Hillsboro Hops played the Vancouver Canadians at Ron Tonkin Field. Theres no professional baseball being played in North America right now, and some fireworks displays for Independence Day have been canceled, but organizers in Forest Grove still plan to put on a show from a secret location.

Independence Day is usually a day to barbecue under the hot sun and then attend a parade with some fireworks at the end of the night.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the sparkly holiday is going to look a little different this year.

The city of Banks canceled its first Fourth of July parade that was originally in honor of the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the city of Banks.

"ODOT is not issuing any permits at this point," said Banks City Manager Jolynn Becker. "That's one of the reasons it was canceled. … Also, the unknown of trying to get people's schedules if you're looking for people to come in from out of town for this."

The parade's original route was to start at Mid-Columbia Bus Company and travel south on Main Street and end at Sunset Park. Organizers were expecting up to 300 people in the area to attend the event.

Becker says the city has been planning its yearly events since last year but is hopeful for what's still scheduled on the calendar, such as Movie in the Park on Aug. 7.

"Because of the crowds we get there and the area, we're looking at goodie bags for that," she added. "I don't know at this point. It all depends on where we are with the phases and stuff. This usually gets 75 to 100 people for that."

In Forest Grove, the fire department will not have its regular Independence Day celebration at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School due to limitations to social gatherings. The event usually includes live music, food and various fundraising efforts for the department and nonprofits.

What about other plans?

Forest Grove Fire Chief Michael Kinkade says the department will put on a firework display in the western hills above the city at 10 p.m. on July 4.

"It's a secret location that should be viewable to most of the city," Kinkade said.

Kinkade hopes the fireworks display can inspire people who may be feeling down during the pandemic.

"We will get through this," he said, "because this is only a temporary situation. We want to remind everybody how important the celebrations are."

But there is one problem in the department's plan: money.

The fire department uses funds from the previous Independence Day celebration to pay for $10,000 worth of fireworks, said Kinkade.

"I'll be reaching out to the community… or establishing a Facebook link where people can donate," he said. In a Facebook post on Monday, June 22, Forest Grove Fire and Rescue posted a Go Fund Me link where people can donate.

In Columbia County, no fireworks will be seen in St. Helens. The city has canceled its annual Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show, which normally includes a pancake breakfast, food truck vendors in the evening, and flag raising and lowering ceremony.

"We know people enjoy coming down and celebrating Independence Day here and something that they look forward to each year," said Crystal King, a city spokesperson. "On the Washington side, people line (up) to watch the fireworks show, and there's usually between 5,000 to 10,000 people that show up."

But not to worry — there are other events happening in the area if you want to celebrate the holiday with the community.

The American Legion is still hosting its sixth annual "Let Freedom Bells Ring" event in Columbia County on July 4. Organizers for the celebration plan to have one person with a bell synchronize his or her timing to ring bells at 2 p.m. at different locations in the area.

The big bell locations are Columbia County Courthouse Clock Tower; Columbia County Courthouse steps; Warrior Rock Replica; Columbia River Fire & Rescue; St. Frederic Catholic Church; Christ Episcopal Church; Plymouth Presbyterian Church; and John Gumm School.

Before the bells ring at 2 p.m., words of reflection will be spoken along with the singing of the National Anthem.

"(At) the time of the Declaration of Independence was signed, bells were run 13 times for each of the American colonies," said the American Legion post in a statement. "'Let the Freedom Bells Ring' is to honor those who protect our freedom, veterans, service members, law enforcement, firefighters, (and) recognizing freedom is not free."

The organization confirmed that there will be no fireworks this year but added that the St. Helens Economic Development Corporation is collaborating with local partners to have a patriotic car decorating contest at the Columbia Theatre. People are encouraged to have their car decorated to then join in line for popcorn and ice cream sales.

"All decorated cars will receive a participation ribbon and prizes for creativity," said the announcement. "As you pass by the courthouse, you will be entertained by live music and an assortment of characters. Be alert, Rosie the Riveter may be judging your patriotic auto."

There will also be a merchant window decorating contest, with a $250 cash prize by SHEDCO for the best display.

As for other activities, the Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association will also offer virtual tours of the historical downtown district on their Facebook page. People can access a QR code on the website for a self-guided tour available on any smart phone.

"The certainty of Columbia County's COVID-19 status may change by July 4th and some activities may not happen," added the press release. "However, we can still 'Let Freedom Bells Ring' anywhere we are, just stop and take a moment of gratitude for those of past, present and future who protect our freedom."

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