Gilbert 3rd of July parade canceled

A family of buzzing bees wave at the crowd watching the annual 3rd of July parade in Gilbert in 2019.

GILBERT — John “Johno” Skalko calls the cancellation of this year’s Gilbert 3rd of July parade because of the COVID-19 crisis “a tough decision, but one that had to be made.” But the fireworks by Pyrotechnic Display will still go on the night of July 3.

“As chairman of the 3rd of July Committee in Gilbert, this is a very tough choice for a small group, to make this decision on something that’s been going on for years in Gilbert,” Skalko said in a phone interview. “I know how important it is to have everybody come home, meet their friends, have the kids come home, have class reunions... It’s just a big celebration. That’s why a small group of us people work so hard to put this on every year. History will tell us if we made the right decision did or not. I think we made the right decision, for the health and safety of people coming home to Gilbert, Minnesota. I hope that next year we can have something bigger and better. I wish everybody the best in their own lives for the rest of the year.”

Broadway will be blocked to traffic at 9:30 p.m. for those wishing to watch the fireworks from a downtown location, said Police Chief Ty Techar.

Committee member Mike Bradach said in a text message, “The 3rd of July committee wants to bring a sense of normalcy back to Gilbert this summer after having to spend all spring in quarantine. Since the parade was cancelled to help keep citizens safe in the midst of COVID-19, we wanted to keep at least one tradition alive with having fireworks.”

Committee member Herb Ocepek said of the COVID-19 pandemic in a text message, “It’s a sad situation. The spectators are extremely important. Without them there would be no parade. So for their health and safety and that of the participants, it (parade cancellation) was the proper decision.”

Committee member Barb Lyons said in a text message, “Due to circumstances beyond our control, and the safety of our community, as well as the fact that many of our usual parade entries would be unable to attend, such as our local high school bands and our Canadian neighbors,” the parade has been cancelled. “We have decided to go ahead with the fireworks display and will have the street open to people viewing -- but we very much encourage social distancing be maintained,” Lyons said.

Committee member Mary Skorjanec said by phone she understands the decision to cancel the parade in the interests of people’s health and safety. “I hope the weather holds out and that the fireworks will be wonderful.” The parade committee did not send out letters this year requesting monetary donations in light of the current situation, but Skorjanec said if anyone wishes to contribute to the fireworks, donations can be sent to Gilbert 3rd of July, Box 1002, Gilbert MN 55741.

Committee member Linda Currie said by phone, “It took a lot of soul serarching, but we as a committe decided it (parade cancellation) was in the best interests of everyone. We’re hoping all of you will come to Gilbert and enjoy the fireworks. We hope to have a “bigger and better parade next year and Little Miss Gilbert will be part of that celebration. Thank you for your continued support and hope you understand why this decision was made.”

Committee member Rachael Skalko -- whose late father Ed Schneider was longtime parade committee chairman -- said by phone, “It was a hard decision but it was the right decision, to keep our community healthy and safe during these difficult times. We will have a better parade next year and I hope everybody comes back and enjoys it. It’s very important to have our social distance. We would be so heartbroken if someone came to town with the disease and spread it. These are difficult times right now and we want everybody safe.”

Linda Tyssen said in a written statement, “As a longtime member of the Gilbert 3rd of July, I am proud our committee made a thoughtful decision that will be in the best interests of all concerned. These are difficult, unprecedented times, but as Americans let us celebrate our nation’s birthday in style.”

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