UPDATED: Ocracoke the latest on the Outer Banks to cancel Fourth of July events

[Island Free Press photo]

The Ocracoke Civic and Business Association, in coordination with Hyde County, has canceled the 2020 Fourth of July activities and the annual fireworks display planned for July 2.

Manteo, Nags Head, Avon Pier on Hatteras Island have also cancelled their Fourth of July fireworks shows. The Town of Duck has called off all summer events through July 5, including the Independence Day parade and related events.

That leaves just Kill Devil Hills and Corolla to make announcements about Independence Day plans for 2020.

The Ocracoke Observer reports the decision follows guidance from the CDC and the state of North Carolina regarding COVID-19 pandemic safety impacts associated with large gatherings. The OCBA looks forward to a fantastic event for 2021, a celebration of our nation coming together.

“The health and safety of the community and our visitors is our first priority,” said Rudy Austin, OCBA board president. “We look forward to the time when we can all get together again and celebrate all the things that make Ocracoke such a special community.”

While the OCBA will not be hosting holiday events, Ocracoke Island will open to visitors starting May 16.

The OCBA says: “Come enjoy our beautiful beaches, wander the village, and support our local businesses that have been working so hard to recover from Hurricane Dorian. Ocracoke is known for miles of secluded beaches, outstanding fishing, plentiful outdoor activities, oak-lined Village streets for walking and biking. All are activities recommended under the CDC guidelines for health and well-being during this COVID-19 pandemic.

“The island is getting ready for the season by implementing safety precautions and social distancing, and we are excited to have you join us and do the same.”

On Friday, the Town of Duck announced they were calling off their annual parade and other events through the first week of July.

“We will miss these opportunities to enjoy our community members,” according to an email from the Town of Duck. “The Town Park and Boardwalk will remain open, and we look forward to providing entertainment when it’s safe to gather again.”

Manteo officials said the decision to cancel the waterfront event was made due to cost and social distancing concerns.

The fireworks scheduled for Avon Pier on July 7 have also been canceled “amid growing concerns for the health and safety of everyone,” the fireworks committee said in a statement. Avon Pier concessionaire Joe Thompson (Koru Village), Fireworks Committee Chair Pat Weston, and the Avon Property Owners Association made the call Thursday.

“Other uncertainties contributed to the decision to cancel, including those such as ‘social distancing’ guidelines due to the coronavirus,” the committee’s statement said.  “Each year, the Avon beach is crowded with thousands of people celebrating the 4th of July and watching the show.  The National Park Service is also uncertain when, or even if they could issue a permit for the event.”

In addition, Thompson has been working hard on getting the pier repaired from the damages of last year’s storms, and its completion was going to be running close to the beginning of July. 

“And then there is the matter of funding for the event,” Weston said in the statement.

Unlike funding for other fireworks events on the Outer Banks, the village of Avon on Hatteras Island is part of unincorporated Dare County. 

“The villages here have no government and no tax base, thus no money to be budgeted for events as the Fourth of July celebration.  Most events on Hatteras Island involve a fundraising effort of some sort, and sometimes may qualify for a grant from the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.  Funding for this event comes in the way of generous donations from our businesses, local residents, property owners, and visitors to the island, the committee said. “This year, with the closing of Dare County to non-residents, businesses relying on tourism have suffered severe economic impact, having completely lost the shoulder season, plus some.  At this time, it would be unconscionable to even think of asking for donations when most are having a tough go of it just trying to put food on their tables.

The opening date for most businesses, which is based on the “phased plan for reopening,” is still up in the air, even now, with the return of visitors on the horizon, scheduled to begin on May 16th when all Dare County entry restrictions are lifted. 

The popular annual display at Nags Head Fishing Pier was canceled earlier this week “due to concerns for the health and safety of our participants, volunteers, and spectators. We will plan an outstanding event for 2021, so mark your calendars,” the town said.

There’s no word yet on other Outer Banks Fourth of July fireworks and events, including the annual display off Avalon Pier in Kill Devil Hills and the fireworks at Corolla at the Whalehead Club.

Ocracoke, too, has not announced whether the annual July 3 fireworks will be a go this year.