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Wheeling, Wellsburg Cancel July 4 Celebrations

WHEELING — Fourth of July celebrations and fireworks in the Ohio Valley are becoming the latest casualties of the COVID-19 after both Wheeling and Wellsburg announced this week they were canceling their Independence Day events.

The Wheeling Symphony Orchestra and Wheeling jointly announced Tuesday the traditional July 4 concert and fireworks at the Heritage Port Amphitheater will not take place this year due to continuing restrictions on large gatherings and safety concerns.

Betsy Delk, interim executive director of the Wheeling Symphony, said that the orchestra staff and city officials have reached the unfortunate conclusion that the traditional celebration, which attracts thousands of people, could not be held.

“We are disappointed that we won’t be able to celebrate the way we normally would. We are working to find other ways to connect our community around the holiday,” she said.

Wheeling and the WSO are hopeful that a waterfront gathering will be possible later in the summer.

“We don’t want to take any unnecessary chances with the health and well-being of our residents or those involved in making this event happen,” City Manager Robert Herron said.

“We will continue to monitor the guidelines set down by the CDC, the Governor’s office and the Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department throughout the summer and perhaps later in the season, things related to COVID-19 will have evolved enough to hold some kind of community event in partnership with the Wheeling Symphony.”

Meanwhile, the volunteer group behind Wellsburg’s weeklong celebration of Independence Day also announced fireworks and other events won’t be held this year. Leaders of the Wellsburg 4th of July Committee said if conditions improve, a few live concerts and fireworks could be held later in the year.

A letter to the public from co-chairs Barb Yoder and Darin Pizer and treasurer Michelle Temple announced all events that were scheduled from June 26 to July 4 had been canceled.

“Unfortunately, this includes the concerts, the town run, tournaments and, sadly, the cornerstones of our celebration, the parade and fireworks,” the letter states.

“The committee knows how much everyone looks forward to this time.

“We understand that currently some restrictions are easing up in West Virginia; however, as much as we love seeing everyone and entertaining the valley for eight nights, we love the thought of keeping you healthy and safe even more.”

The committee’s leaders said they would consider a shorter celebration later in the year if concerns about COVID-19 lighten.

Yoder, who was called for comment, said the group was concerned about seeking donations from the many businesses that sponsor concerts that are free to the public and other events at a time when their revenue was affected by the pandemic-spurred lockdown.

She said some consideration was given to waiting longer before making the decision, but she noted many former residents make plans to return home for the holiday.

The celebration joins Follansbee Community Days, the Upper Ohio Valley Italian Heritage Festival and other summer events that have been canceled because of concerns about the coronavirus.

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