July 4 canceled

Community members take shelter under buildings in Stanardsville as storms rolled in on Thursday, July 4. 

Rainfall, wind and thunderstorms on the evening of July 4 called off this year’s Red, White, Blue ‘n Greene event – with early estimates of damages to be at least $10,000.

Stanardsville Independence Day Committee (SIDC) chairman Michael Payne said Monday that between damaged tents, a speaker system and instruments he believes the damage to be around $10,000 or greater. SIDC did not have exact figures at the time of press, but did note that there was no damage to school grounds.

“The primary decision maker was to prevent damage to the school. We were concerned that having thousands of people putting seats down and just tromping around in the area would damage the field,” Payne said. “We were also concerned that if you had lightning strike with that much standing water that people would be injured or worse. To prevent damage to the school and to prevent loss of life, we ultimately had to make a very tough call.”

At 12:55 p.m. on July 4, the National Weather Service issued a special weather statement that included several threats from thunderstorms and heat including localized areas of flash flooding from torrential rain, damaging wind gusts and lightning strikes. By 4:14 p.m., a flash flood watch was placed in effect until midnight with “slow moving showers and thunderstorms expected.”

By 6:40 p.m. the committee had called off the parade that was slated for 5:30 p.m. and fireworks scheduled for 9:35 p.m. Payne said the Town of Stanardsville does not have a precedent for rescheduling parades, and the roads could not be closed again without a VDOT permit. Mayor Gary Lowe, also a SIDC member, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“It’s a combination of volunteers, permits and money,” Payne said. “My heart goes out to all the people who worked so hard on the really great parade entries because it was shaping up to look like the best parade we’d ever had. My heart goes out to them for all that time and effort to make the parade awesome only to be rained out and have their floats destroyed.”

Payne noted that vendors also suffered losses from the weather.

“Any emotions that the public was feeling, we were feeling much greater. We put a lot of ourselves into this event, and we do it understanding that mother nature is going to do what mother nature is going to do. We’ve been very lucky for a number of years and our number was up this year. Hopefully folks will rejoin us next year and we hope for a better outcome. Rain may have washed us away, but it didn’t wash us out,” he said.

SIDC meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Town Hall in Stanardsville. In its fourth year with less than a dozen committee members, Payne said the group is always looking for more volunteers and sponsors.

“At the end of the day, we were sad that we had to make the call, but it was absolutely the right call and it’s one we would make 1,000 times again. One happy moment of fireworks isn’t going to make up for even one person getting hurt,” Payne said. “There’s no reason to risk human life for a party. There is no reason to risk significant damage to a taxpayer resource. I hope that people understand that in retrospect, but if they want a hand in making that call in the future – the first step is to volunteer and show up.”

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Logan Bogert is a reporter for the Greene County Record in Stanardsville, Virginia. She can be reached at lbogert@greene-news.com or (434) 985-2315. Follow Logan on Twitter at @Logan_Bogert.

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