Communities remain hopeful for summer events as vaccinations rise

With summer inching closer, it's crunch time for Milwaukee-area festivals preparing to return amid the coronavirus pandemic.

One doctor says, as long as precautions are in place, those events can happen responsibly. In New Berlin, the city is planning to welcome back a long-standing tradition -- the Fourth of July Festival.

The New Berlin festival has something for the entire family -- parades, a carnival and, of course, fireworks. With the three-day event held mostly outside near Malone Park, experts say the work being done now can lead to a smooth and safe holiday.

"It's the biggest event of the year in the city, bar none," said John Schober, a festival concessionaire with the New Berlin Muscular Dystrophy Association.

New Berlin Fourth of July parade

For 52 years, the city has come together for a big celebration around Independence Day. Nearly every time, Schober has been one of the tens of thousands to show up.

"The weather's usually terrific that time of year, so yeah it's just kind of a community gathering that's very, very popular," Schober said.

Malone Park in New Berlin

At City Hall on Wednesday night, New Berlin's Fourth of July commission continued its work, coming over the fine details -- committed to hosting the event this year. 

UW Health's Dr. Jeff Pothof said the effort is absolutely possible in this stage of the pandemic.

"With low levels in our community as of today, it becomes possible to do those events as long as you can maintain those mitigation efforts," Pothof said.

Summerfest

After wiping out nearly all of the 2020 schedule, a handful of Milwaukee festivals are again canceled this summer. But some bigger events, like the Wisconsin State Fair, are still on -- for now. Summerfest, meanwhile, is pushed back to the first three weekends in September.

The delay is allowing vaccination rates to increase and giving people a chance to get out of the house.

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"I think it's important for people to not just say, 'Well, COVID's still out there. I can't do anything, and I gotta stay home.' But on the flipside not say, 'Well, you know, I'm done with COVID. I'm just gonna go out there and pretend this thing's not out there,'" said Pothof.

Pothof said that balance is pivotal for both organizers and event-goers. Plus, it's easier to host outdoor events safely, giving people more space and allowing natural ventilation.

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