Guttenberg Chamber cancels July Fourth celebration

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By Shelia Tomkins

The Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce board, at its monthly meeting on June 3, decided to cancel the community's annual Stars & Stripes celebration originally set for July 4th, due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.

In explaining the decision, the Chamber issued the following open letter to the community on Facebook: "It is impossible to ensure the social distancing practices necessary to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in an event its size. The Governor’s proclamation prohibits any community event in which social distancing cannot be ensured by event organizers. Crowds of people attending festivities in the park, a parade, and a fireworks display poses an unnecessary risk for our community; local health authorities have advised against the event for that very reason. Recognizing our local health and safety officials' expertise in this public health crisis, the Chamber board will honor their recommendation.

"Originally, the Chamber board announced they would postpone the event until Labor Day weekend if a July 4 celebration was not possible given the current state of the pandemic. But upon further consideration, with so much uncertainty about the months ahead, we have decided to cancel Stars & Stripes festivities. A fireworks display will be held at the 30th anniversary celebration of GermanFest in Guttenberg on Sept 25-26 if possible.

"The Chamber board did not take this decision lightly and it is with heavy hearts that we share this news. During this pandemic we simply cannot host or promote large-scale community gatherings; for now, we must celebrate our great nation in private family gatherings and in our own hearts. The time to celebrate and gather will come again, but in the meantime let us all remember that one of the founding principles of the great United States of America is respect for others, especially for the safety and health of others. So, please, respect your friends and neighbors enough to understand the reason behind this difficult decision and know that the Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce will always love and respect our community enough to protect it when needed."

In an email to Chamber members, Director Mandy Ludvoissy added, "It is with a sad acceptance that this was truly the only option for this celebration.  It is within our human nature to recognize ourselves as experts on any given topic, and the pandemic is no exception to that; we have extreme variation in our perceptions of the virus and how we  think we and others should respond to it.  Yes, people are going to gather this summer regardless of what we decide.  But as an organization that represents the community of Guttenberg, we cannot in good faith encourage gathering.  Our local health experts and authorities have directly advised against holding this event and we respect and will uphold this recommendation.  If the Chamber board and staff could have taken additional measures in order to safely have the event, we would have.  The Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to creating a more vibrant and welcoming Guttenberg, but some risks simply are not ours to take; we love Guttenberg enough to know when something is beyond our capacity.  Could Guttenberg have safely handled a mass influx of people?  Could we have handled the public shaming sure to come to a community who puts their “wants” before public health?  Guttenberg is strong because Guttenberg leadership understands the importance of working together and thinking beyond our own personal beliefs and desires to represent the entire community.  We will continue to do what is right for the community and look toward a healthier, safer, and more vibrant future."

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