Our first major event for 2021, and first since March of 2020, is now in the history books! I'm talking about the Independence Day Parade and Freedom Festival in Gough Park. This event was sponsored by Public Service Company of New Mexico and Hatch Toyota. I hope you went, and I hope you had a great time!

At the outset of our planning for the event we knew that this event was going to be difficult to execute because we were still under the Public Health Order which restricted large events and mass gatherings. The residents of our county had been doing a great job of maintaining the restrictions of the mandate so, when we were given the date of June 30 for the all clear, we felt reasonably certain that we would be given a green light. However, we didn't want to take any chances so we altered the "traditional" plan for the parade and the event in the park.

I presented to my Board of Directors that we should look to hold our "street festival" along Bullard Street and throughout the Arts and Culture district and alter the parade route. We felt that an event in the park would create a "mass gathering' and a parade on Bullard Street would not allow for social distancing so this is what we prepared for the board's approval. After many discussions, and a wee bit of trepidation from some people, we made the decision to stay downtown but away from Bullard Street; That is until, due to public safety concerns, we were asked to host the event in the park. We also, once again, altered the parade route to what you saw on Saturday.

You don't know how much I wanted our event to be held directly in the downtown district. I truly love our Arts and Culture District and all that it does for tourism in Grant County. Moving our event so that it circumvented Bullard Street was extremely difficult but the decision, ultimately, was mine. Mainstreet had begun a Love Local promotion with the downtown merchants so moving away from them was a bit disconcerting. As disconcerting as it was, it was tough to see the criticism that was tossed around on Facebook.

I realize that social media sites are really just places for people to spread their anonymous opinions and vitriol, and I usually just ignore those trolls, but this time they were accusing us, me, the chamber, of not appreciating downtown and actually turning our backs on the area. This is far from the truth, and that's what hurts.

There is a difference between "tradition" and "we've always done it that way!" Tradition states that we host an "Independence Day" event and execute it to the best of our ability, keeping in mind any, and all, limitations. For the most part I was facing opposition from the people who want to do things the way we've always done them. I know that we, I, the Chamber, were slammed on Facebook by people who thought some California transplant came in and changed things up: Not true! I stand behind the changes that were made, especially since the events went off flawlessly!

The crowd that gathered seemed happy, and excited, just to be out and about in a public setting visiting with their friends. The vendors in the Freedom Festival at Gough Park worked hard to serve the festival goers with a smile and a fist bump. Most of the vendors had lines 15-20 people deep, and some even ran out of food at 2pm or so.

We got the chance to honor six outstanding Parade Marshalls: Dan McBride – Veteran; Jeff Fell – First Responder; Margaret Diaz – Healthcare Worker; Lesliette Quesada – Educator, Silver Schools, and Edward Pena, Educator, Cobre Schools. Five of these six individuals represented those who went over and above what was necessary to keep our families and our communities on track during the pandemic. They worked tirelessly and pulled long hours and didn't even take time off.

Our Grand Marshall, Dan McBride, served his country with Valor, and Honor, and helped make it possible for each of us to enjoy the freedoms we celebrated this week. Sir Dan McBride is always surrounded by an entourage of people who admire and respect him. I hope his involvement in the 2021 Independence Day parade will add you to that mix.

I'm mostly thankful for my staff and my Independence Day Parade and Freedom Festival planning committee. They worked hard, even with all of the setbacks and criticism, and helped execute a flawless event. Together we took an event that had no structure and built the framework as we went along. Each week we took two steps forward, and one step back, but we persevered and we knocked it out of the ballpark! We look forward to next year and we invite you to be part of the process.

Like Caesar marching into Rome: we came, we saw, we learned and we emerged victorious! Thank you, Grant County!

If you wish to be part of the process, our Independence Day Planning Committee meets every 2nd Tuesday of the month at 3pm in my office at the Silver City Grant County Chamber of Commerce and Conference Center. Call me at 575-538-3785 or email me at director@silvercity.org if you have questions.