An unofficial July Fourth parade organized by Lander residents will go forward with the city's blessing. In an email sent via a community listserv, Lander Senator Cale Case said he and city officials helped the organizers secure a WYDOT permit to shut down Main Street to avoid the "dangers and chaos" of an unsanctioned celebration.
"Safety is paramount and an authorized parade allows main street to be closed so that spectators and participants (including children) will not be exposed to hazards from oncoming and cross traffic," Case wrote.
Lander typically goes all in on Independence Day, with its annual parade, rodeo, and other events that draw thousands of visitors to the city. But the Lander Pioneer Days Committee announced in early June that it wasn't safe to host the events during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lander Resident Rachel Good said that she and other community members couldn't imagine Lander on the Fourth without a parade, so they organized the first ever "Lander Pirate Parade."
"Our plan originally was to make it kind of like a Friday night cruise. You know, start at the high school and everyone drives down mainstreet," Good said. "We definitely didn't anticipate such a huge response."
A Facebook Group for the event has grown to more than 1,300 members. That had local officials worried about pedestrian and spectator safety.
"The city feels the same way that Senator Case does," said Lander Assistant Mayor RaJean Strube Fossen. "If [the parade] is going to happen anyway, we want everyone to be as safe as possible. We can't have people out in the street unrestricted."
Fossen said that in addition to helping the organizers secure a permit to shut down Main Street traffic, the city will provide police officers and additional staff to help keep the parade safe and organized.
Good said it wasn't her goal to force the city's hand, but she and the event's other organizers and supporters are happy with the outcome.
"I'm honestly very happy that the city and everyone wanted to be involved. You know, our community loves the fourth of July parade," Good said.
Fremont County remains Wyoming's largest COVID-19 hot spot, with more than 315 confirmed cases. Parade goers are encouraged to wear masks and practice social distancing at the event, but Good said neither measure is required. According to Assistant Mayor Fossen, community members should look to the CDC for guidance on how to avoid catching or spreading COVID-19 during the holiday weekend.
The Lander Pirate Parade will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning at Lander Valley High School. The event will be streamed live on County 10 for those who do not feel comfortable attending in person.
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