Jefferson City will salute America in typical fashion July 3-5 with a celebration pulled together by scores of volunteers who have been navigating the uncertainty of the pandemic.
In a nod to COVID-19, the festival will look a little different this year, but it remains intact and on schedule. The Red, White and Bloom Parade will be 6 p.m. Friday on a longer, more spaced, route. And the Red, White and Boom Fireworks display is scheduled for 9:45 p.m. Saturday, Independence Day.
The usual activities that would have started at 11 am. on Saturday will open at 4 p.m. this year. This includes the food and vendor booths, beer garden, entertainment stages and carnival.
Festival organizers worked with a team from the Cole County Health Dept. to develop an action plan for helping keep the festival safe.
“You’ll see multiple hand-washing stations in each block,” said Penny Smith, the event coordinator. “Especially in the carnival area, people will get off and be able to go right to a hand sanitizing station. Also, the rides will get wiped down after everyone gets off.”
Other noticeable changes will be more space between vendor and food booths. The popular Little Mr. and Miss contest had to be cancelled. Also missing this year will be the hot dog-eating contest, and the Splash N Play.
Smith said areas around the entertainment stages and the beer garden will be similar to prior years.
“The festival will be attended by amazing Missourians, who are responsible individuals and I’m sure they will be just fine,” Smith said. “We will be relying on people to be responsible for their own social distancing.”
Salute to America is a non-profit organization run by a board of directors. Smith is the only staff member. Volunteer committee leaders help organize fellow volunteers, who make the festival come together. They’ve had new challenges this year preparing in the era of the coronavirus.
“It’s been a learning experience,” Smith said. “Yes, there’s been some challenges and yes, it’s been stressful. But it’s amazing to see the people involved come up with solutions and solve problems. It’s been uplifting. I have to say I’ve loved it and it’s been a great experience.”
Melissa Schieferdecker heads up the beer garden committee, which involves everything from booking the bands, stage management, security, and all the things required to run a beer garden during the festival – which includes about 40-50 volunteers.
“There’s not a mandate on gloves or masks,” Schieferdecker said. “Of course, we’ll be doing extra cleaning and wiping down. Well also see that tables and chairs are distanced appropriately by the guidelines.”
She said about 100 people will be capacity in the beer garden.
Jason Verslues heads up the logistics committee, which is made up of volunteers from the Carpenters Union. They place the signs, banners, A-frame indicators and help set up booths, tables, clean-up, “anything that comes up and people need some support,” he said. He has about 15-20 volunteers
Donna Deetz of the East Side Business Association works with the West Side Business Association and about 20 volunteers to check in vendors, help them register, get them to their location, unload and set up their displays.
“This year there will be masks and gloves for volunteers,” Deetz said. “During check-in, we’ll remind vendors where the sanitation booths are.”
Friends of the Missouri Governor’s Manson will be hosting Heritage Village for the first time. The village is moving to Madison Street in front of the governor’s mansion.
“Come for entertainment and a glimpse into the past,” said Katherine Reed, director of communication for the Friends. “Be prepared to purchase commemorative items and food samplings. Bring your camera for a photo opportunity with the 2021 Missouri Bicentennial Mural and the Missouri Governor’s Mansion in the background.”