OSCODA – It is now confirmed that Independence Day in Oscoda Township will feature a fireworks show to complement the recognition of the red, white and blue.

In a 7-0 vote at their Monday meeting, the board of trustees approved hosting the Fourth of July display this year – following some uncertainty surrounding the topic a couple weeks ago.

The motion, made by Supervisor Aaron Weed, also outlines that signage be created to encourage social distancing, as determined appropriate from a coordination of the Department of Public Works, Oscoda Township Police Department and the township superintendent.

The AuSable Township Board of Trustees has also agreed to contribute their usual 1/3 amount to the cost of the display.

“I think we should go ahead with the fireworks show, because people have been locked up long enough,” said Oscoda Township Trustee Martin Gayeski, who agreed that social distancing signs should be posted. “I think they’re looking forward to something.”

Treasurer Jaimie McGuire echoed this, adding that it should be common sense for people to stay home if they’re not feeling well.

She also pointed out that communities north and south of the township – Harrisville and the Tawases – are proceeding with their fireworks this year.

As reported, it was during their June 8 meeting when Oscoda officials were initially presented with three potential options for the 2020 event – postpone until a later date, such as Labor Day; proceed with the display as usual; or hold off until Fourth of July 2021.

In an e-mail from AuSable Township Superintendent Leisa Sutton, she wrote that board of trustees members discussed the fireworks display on June 1.

Their consensus at that time, was that they felt it was not prudent to host a large gathering, considering the health concerns brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the Oscoda board considered the request at their first meeting in June, Township Superintendent Dave Schaeffer said that the Governor’s Executive Orders for COVID-19 have been changing rapidly. And, more recently, there’s simply a different tone as far as specificity when it comes to moving through the different stages of the Michigan Safe Start Plan.

He said he has spoken with the township’s fireworks vendor, Bruce Tyree, who owns Great Lakes Fireworks in West Branch.

According to Schaeffer, Tyree was aware of the aforementioned options being considered by local officials, and that a decision wouldn’t be made until June 22. Knowing that the pandemic situation has been full of uncertainties, Tyree expressed willingness to accommodate any of the three options.

If Oscoda Township were to proceed with the July 4 display, despite the suggestion from those in AuSable to do otherwise, Trustee Jim Baier wondered whether the neighboring community would still contribute financially to the fireworks.

Oscoda board members expressed their desire to carry on with the show this year, but acknowledged at the time that this all depends on the mandates related to COVID-19.

For example, Trustee Timothy Cummings remarked that he would not want to cancel the show if it is something the communities could do and it is permitted by the Governor. “But, if the Governor says that we can’t and shouldn’t, then I think our hands are tied at that point.”

Since then, Baier’s inquiry was discussed at the June 15 meeting of the AuSable Township Board of Trustees.

As recently noted, Supervisor Kevin Beliveau told the AuSable board that, at the time they gave consensus to forgo the 2020 display, the state was still in a pretty hard shut down or stay-at-home order. “Those orders have been loosened considerably where most things are back in action, maybe not at full capacity, but back in action and by the end of this month they should be pretty much completely back in action. So, I guess from my perspective, maybe we need or should reconsider the whole idea of moving forward on the Fourth of July fireworks here.” 

The board agreed that if an executive order was put in place that prohibited the event from occurring, their financial support would be lost. Additionally, they pointed out that if they decide to contribute, they still want to stress the importance of social distancing.

A motion to proceed with their contribution to the fireworks show, if it is held, received unanimous approval.

Additional details on the Oscoda display, along with other Independence Day events being held throughout Iosco County, will appear in next week’s edition of this publication.