‘Canceling Peach Days is like canceling Christmas’: Hurricane Council discusses upcoming celebrations

People stand in line to get peach shakes at Peach Days festival in Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 30, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

HURRICANE — The Hurricane City Council discussed upcoming events during their regularly scheduled meeting on Thursday. While it was announced that the 4th of July fireworks show will be held at Sand Hollow State Park for the first time in history, the decision whether to hold the annual Peach Days event remains on hold for now.

File photo of fireworks at the Piano Guys concert at Dixie Regional Medical Center, St. George, Utah, Sept. 12, 2018 | Photo by Mikayla Shoup, St. George News

The stated change in location for the city fireworks show for Independence Day has to do with safety concerns and increased risk of fire. Due to the development of 600 North, the fallout zone for the fireworks presents a hazard. Arthur LeBaron, the city engineer, told St. George News this been something the city has been discussing for years.

The fireworks show will begin at 10 p.m. Entrance into Sand Hollow will be free beginning at 8 p.m. on a first-come, first-served basis. Phone numbers and names will be taken upon entrance for tracking of COVID-19 should there be a need.

While there won’t be a parade, residents are invited to swim for free from noon to 8 p.m. at the Hurricane city pool, and people will be able to drive up and get free ice cream sandwiches from 8-9:30 p.m. at Dixie Springs Park, the Hurricane Community Center and the American Legion Sterling Russel Post 100 location.

During the discussion of Peach Days this year, council members and the mayor expressed distress and heartache at the possibility of having to cancel the event. For many, Peach Days is a time for reuniting with family and community members in this beloved, historic celebration.

File photo of dancers at Peach Days parade in Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 1, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

David Stirland, Peach Days committee executive board member, said the event brings in an average of 20,000-30,000 attendees, which would make enforcing social distancing nearly impossible.

Stirland said he would personally like to move forward with Peach Days, but the big question is whether it can be done while still maintaining recommended social distancing restrictions. There is also uncertainty of what level of risk the county will be at that time.

Council member Nanette Billings said she was in favor of holding Peach Days.

“I don’t think that we don’t hold it because we’re fearful. If we move forward and people want to come, they will,” she said.

Billing said if people are fearful themselves and are afraid of getting sick, they won’t come.

Nanette Billings listens to a speaker at a Hurricane City Council Meeting, Hurricane, Utah, May 21, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“If they come and they get sick, they know the risk. If people that are on the committee don’t feel comfortable, they’re not going to be a part of it. My feeling is, we can’t stop lives because of the coronavirus.”

Council member Joseph Prete said that as a general rule, he believes in freedom, the ability to choose and less regulations and interference with personal liberties.

“The concern I have is, are we violating state law by proceeding?”

Prete said he didn’t want to have to vote to cancel Peach Days, but he said there’s a difference between a government arbitrarily throwing regulations at citizens and “affirmatively planning a large-scale community activity where we are proactively creating a scenario that could result in harm.”

“It feels irresponsible to plan a community activity given the current data and hope the data will improve shortly,” he said. Later in the discussion, he added, “I feel like canceling Peach Days is like canceling Christmas.”

Washington City royalty at Peach Days parade in Hurricane, Utah, Sept. 1, 2018 | Photo by Markee Heckenliable, St. George News

Mayor John Bramall said under state guidelines, if there are lives being lost and the governor or mayor declares an emergency, people breaking the social distancing recommendations or who are out who have COVID-19 and may not even know it could be charged misdemeanors or felonies.

“Under current law, because the Legislature did not invoke to keep the 30-day emergency declaration of the governor, it becomes basically health code violations,” Bramall said, adding that it is similar to not showering before getting in a public pool.

But even still, Bramall stressed the potential risk holding Peach Days could pose to the community.

“I’m voting to not risk one person,” he said.

Council member Kevin Tervort expressed his concern with things like bounce houses and the safety of children. He suggested an option for a scaled-down Peach Days that would still stay within the health directives.

From left, City Manager Clark Fawcett and council members Darin Larson and Kevin Tervort sit during the public hearing about zone changes, Hurricane, Utah, June 18, 2020 | Photo by Aspen Stoddard, St. George News

“Whatever Peach Days that entails, that’s what we get,” Tervort said. “I’m saying, if we stay where we are, we may end up with one guitar player, two picnic tables and a sack lunch down at the end of the street, but that’s Peach Days.”

Council member Darin Larson said while he does agree that people should have a choice, he has been personally effected by COVID-19 and wouldn’t be comfortable taking his family to parts of the event.

“I think every one of us wants Peach Days to happen,” he said. “Personally, I won’t take my family down the street with all the food with that many people.”

Stirland said it would be nearly impossible to scale down Peach Days without losing its essence. He said they are receiving calls from concerned vendors.

“They’re concerned about their own safety. They’re concerned about crowds. They’re concerned about a lot of things,” he said. “These are people who are participating on a commercial level. We’re getting questions from entertainers – everybody has their own safety concerns regarding safety issues about Peach Days.”

However, Stirland ultimately came around to the possibility of a scaled-down version of the event. “I could see a modified Peach Days, and maybe that’s what we do.”

After more than 40 minutes of discussion, the council decided to table the issue until July 16.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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