Shenandoah City Council

Shenandoah City Council

(Shenandoah) -- A recent decision to cancel Shenandoah's July 4th fireworks show drew ire at Tuesday's city council meeting.

Recently, members of Shenandoah's American Legion Post's executive committee voted to cancel this year's Independence Day activities--including the parade and the fireworks show in Sportsman's Park. Legion officials cited COVID-19 as the main reason for the event's cancellation. However, executive committee members pledged to move the fireworks to Shenfest in late September. Steven Harris is a member of the Shenandoah Fourth of July Committee--the group in charge of shooting the fireworks. Harris requested that the fireworks show take place July 3rd, instead. Harris squared off with Mayor Dick Hunt over the legion's decision. He told the council the fireworks have never been under the legion's control. Harris also said nearby crops in early fall made launching fireworks from Sportman's Park dangerous.

"A cornfield starts drying out mid-September," said Harris. "I'm shooting fireworks right next to a cornfield. So, who would take responsibility for that cornfield if it caught on fire?"

Shenandoah Fire Chief Justin Marshall says he also expressed concerns over an early fall fireworks show at a city department head meeting Tuesday morning. Marshall says fireworks could be shot off in other locations.

"There are other options to move the fireworks in a safer environment," said Marshall. "I don't think it's always been on the north end of Sportsman's. I don't know if it's a written rule that has to be there. I understand your concerns. I share that, as well. Standing corn is not a good fire to fight--you're right."

Hunt, however, says it's too late to reschedule the fireworks for July 3rd. He disputed Harris' comments that the legion had no control over the fireworks, and stood by its decision to scrap the fireworks show.

"The virus has pretty well changed all of our lives," said Hunt. "I've never seen so many cancellations of so many things in my life, that I remember. But, the legion votes, and she (Post Commander Janet Olsen) called me, and told me how they voted. That's good, But, when you make a decision, when you told your kids no, that didn't mean yes."

Shenandoah American Legion Post Commander Janet Olsen confirmed the executive committee's decision is final.

"I'm sorry Steven is not a member of that executive board," said Olsen, "but he is a member of the American Legion. We pay for the fireworks license, the housing when they go to training, and pay for their training. Therefore, they do belong to the American Legion. The decision was made--and not lightly, sir--that we would forego this year, and try to move it to Shenfest. It cannot be undone without an emergency meeting of the e-board."

Despite the legion's decision, Shenandoah may still have July 4th fireworks. Some local residents are attempting to gain insurance coverage and sponsors for shooting off consumer-grade fireworks on private property on 6th Avenue. Organizers plan to abide by city fireworks ordinances, and end the fireworks show by 11 that evening.