Seguin has canceled all city-based Fourth of July celebrations this year.
Seguin City Council members made the decision regarding the Biggest Small Town Fourth of July Parade during an emergency special meeting Tuesday evening. In an unanimous vote, the council canceled the parade due to safety concerns under a motion by councilman Ernest Leal and seconded by councilwoman Jeanette “Jet” Crabb.
“I’m really saddened by [this],” Seguin Mayor Don Keil said. “This is my favorite thing that Seguin does. This is the biggest, loudest and most fun, family event that we have all year long, and unfortunately, we have to cancel it. This is just something that we have to do, but I’m glad that we were able to at least give people a little bit more of a notice than we originally thought… so people can make plans and do what they need to do. It's just something that really breaks my heart, but unfortunately, it's necessary.”
The council’s decision to cancel the festivities follows a recent spike of COVID-19 cases as of Friday, June 19.
Seguin City Manager Steve Parker said the most recent update from the Texas Department of State Health Services put Guadalupe County at 182 active cases as of Monday.
As a result of these rising numbers of active cases, Keil said the move to squash the parade was clear.
“It was an easy decision to make because we’ve been monitoring this,” Keil said. “We were watching this all last week, so I knew that we would have to make this decision one way or the other pretty quickly. Particularly after Friday’s numbers came out, I spent the whole weekend worried about it and thinking. I came in this morning and said I’m 90% sure we’re gonna cancel it.”
Keil said the increase of active cases has also put pressure on local health officials.
“As we’ve said all along, we reserve the right to cancel this event right up to the day before if a considerable spike should occur,” Keil said. “And what has happened is that spike has occurred…but it’s beginning to strain our local medical facilities, and it’s affecting our city staff as well as affecting our abilities to act as a city and so forth. So continuing with a large event like this is just not really an option at this point.”
During the brief meeting, Parker compared the numbers of reported cases to neighboring counties.
“You’re seeing counties [like] Hays County [and Travis] County, they’re both growing in numbers,” Parker said. “Hays County has surpassed Travis County in the number of cases, yet Travis County is five times the population of Hays County. So these things can spread really quickly. They (Hays County) in almost a week's time period from 74 cases to over 700, and that’s what we’re trying to minimize here is that same thing happening here.”
The annual fireworks display was also scrapped as part of the council’s decision Tuesday evening.
“People congregate as much with the fireworks as they do with the parade,” Keil said. “They gather in big tight groups, and picnic and people come from out of town. It’s a big deal, people come in several vehicles and basically camp out very close together and get around the park to get on the golf course, and then they crowd things out, so I think it's just best that we go ahead and not have to go through that kind of fear as well.”
Because the Seguin Police Department cannot feasibly enforce a mandatory mask policy throughout the area, Keil asked community business owners to require masks on their property.
“At this point, I don't think it's necessary to enact an ordinance with penalties since it would be almost impossible to enforce,” he said. “So I'm asking the community to comply with that and asking businesses to really make sure that that something like that is in place in their establishments.”
The council previously discussed the parade during a special meeting on June 4. In this meeting, council members gave the parade the green light following a community-wide survey that showed about 73% of participants in favor of the march.
The vote to keep the parade marching then was 7-1 with councilman Jeremy Roy voting against the gathering out of concern for the impact the event could have on local health workers.
If the parade were to go on under the council's previous decision, certain safety parameters purposed by Seguin Main Street and CVB Director Kyle Kramm were slated for integration.
These parameters included safety precautions like the addition of hand sanitizer stations throughout the parade route, forgoing the distribution of holiday memorabilia such as koozies and flags, and reducing or scrapping VIP seating altogether.
Other purposed safety measures by Kramm included the restriction of five cars per street, reducing the number of people per float to 10 or less, and limiting the distribution of parade trophies by three judges to just one.
In addition, community members were also encouraged by council members to, at the time, watch the parade from home via an online live stream provided by the city if residents felt particularly at risk.