Ouray to cancel Fourth of July festivities

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The city of Ouray will cancel all traditional Fourth of July festivities this year, citing concerns about the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and the likelihood that a prohibition on mass gatherings of more than 10 people will linger well into the summer.

City councilors did not take any formal action during a work session this afternoon but indicated they will vote at their next meeting on May 18 to disband any plans for the traditional morning parade, afternoon water fights and nighttime fireworks display.

“Unfortunately I do not see a situation at all where people can safely gather in the streets,” Councilor Glenn Boyd said. “I just don’t see it being able to be safe.”

The council’s unofficial agreement comes two days after the Telluride Town Council reached a similar consensus on that town’s Fourth of July events.

The cancellation represents potentially another significant blow to Ouray’s tourism-dependent economy, which has basically been shut down for the last six weeks in the face of a series of public health orders that shuttered the Hot Springs Pool and nearly all businesses in town and asked second homeowners not to return to Ouray County. Retail shops and personal services businesses like hair salons have slowly started to reopen, and lodging establishments are expected to begin accepting limited bookings next weekend. Bars, theaters and restaurants remain closed, with restaurants continuing to only offer takeout and curbside service.

The Fourth of July has long been Ouray’s busiest day for tourism, with thousands of people crowding into town for events throughout the day.

Several hotel owners have been pushing city councilors to make a decision about the Fourth of July as soon as possible. They’re starting to field inquiries from travelers about the city’s plans for the holiday and said they’d rather know now if events are canceled.

Councilors talked about potentially revisiting a decision to nix festivities if the situation with COVID-19 improves and a fire ban isn’t enacted. But Boyd recommended against that, saying the city likely won’t be able to obtain the extra law enforcement officers it needs or purchase more fireworks on short notice.