How to celebrate July 4 without big fireworks shows in Sonoma County

With public fireworks canceled, we asked readers how they’ll spend Independence Day this year.|

It’s going to be a different kind of Fourth of July this year. As concerns about the coronavirus continue and health orders ban mass gatherings, major annual public fireworks displays have been canceled.

But that doesn’t mean folks won’t celebrate in their own way, though the festivities may be quieter, smaller and at home. We asked readers to tell us, via email and Facebook, how they’ll mark Independence Day this year.

Answers ranged from hopeful to indifferent to skeptical. Here’s what they had to say.

Mary Jenkins of Santa Rosa knows the mood may be more subdued this year on July 4, but she still looks forward to longstanding family traditions.

“Our family used to celebrate the Fourth of July sporadically, but since 1989, we’ve gotten together yearly. Party size has ranged from 10 to 43 people. The only requirement is you have to wear red, white and blue,” she said.

“This year there will only be seven of us. Because of the virus, only our immediate family will be together,” Jenkins explained.

“We will barbecue; listen to patriotic music among colorful decorations; dress in our red, white and blue and reminisce about the olden days,” she added. “No doubt our celebration this year will be smaller, but we will enjoy the camaraderie and most importantly, stay healthy.”

Deb McGauley, who works in sales and marketing for Korbel Winery in Guerneville, is opting for the simple approach to enjoying this Independence Day.

“We typically don’t go anywhere on the Fourth,” she said. “We hang our flag, have a good backyard barbecue with a couple friends and stay home to comfort our dogs when the neighborhood blows off M80s, etc. We’ll probably do the same this year.”

Pet owners complain every year that thunderous fireworks displays panic their animals, so Phyllis Rapp of Healdsburg saw a positive side to this summer’s event cancellations: “This year I won’t have to drug my dog.”

Artist and former teacher Karen Lockert of Forestville figured some habits won’t be broken, despite fireworks cancellations.

“People will buy from fireworks stands and maybe set more fires in their neighborhoods, unfortunately,” she said.

Allen Peterson of Santa Rosa responded in a similar vein: “I’ll just watch all the illegal fireworks go off around the house, my hose at the ready for the errant bottle rocket. I have actually picked up bottle rockets that have landed on my garage many times.”

Artist and actress Mollie Boice of Santa Rosa found the current mood of the country less than conducive to celebration.

“Since I'm not in love with America right now (the more I read, the less I like it), I'll just listen to the Hell’s Angels shoot off their noise. ... Sorry,” she said, adding that the bikers are nearby neighbors.

Food writer and columnist Michele Anna Jordan gave us her own take on the holiday:

“I've never much cared for the Fourth of July, especially once I was old enough to realize all the parades and fireworks were not an intentional buildup to my July 6 birthday,” she joked.

Artist Marylu Downing of Sebastopol offered a simple four-point plan for the holiday: “Beach walk, distanced dinner, beer, recommitting to freedom and equality.”

Alexander Valley sculptor T Barny recommended a safe and effortless alternative to the traditional outdoor fireworks shows: “virtual fireworks on the tube.”

For Joshua Bluegreen-Cripps of Santa Rosa, a performer and producer active in the Sonoma County music and art communities, this year’s celebration will be simple: “Barbecue, music, close friends and family.”

You can reach Staff Writer Dan Taylor at On Twitter @danarts.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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