Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac’s annual fireworks still a go

DOWAGIAC — COVID-19 has taken many of southwest Michigan’s favorite summer activities, with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order leading to the closure of businesses and the cancellation of festivals and other seasonal events in an effort to slow the spread of the virus. However,

The Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac recently announced that it would still host its annual fireworks display at dusk on July 3. Tuesday, the event was approved by the Dowagiac City Council.

“As of right now, we are still a go,” said Becky Grabemeyer, chair of the young professionals. “We have talked about this at our last two monthly meetings, and we are hopeful that the governor’s orders will be lifted enough by then that we can safely host this event.”

Now in its seventh year, the annual fireworks display was previously up in the air, as many Michigan cities, including nearby St. Joseph, canceled their Fourth of July fireworks to comply with state orders and social distancing mandates. Grabemeyer feels that Dowagiac’s fireworks are different as they are on a smaller scale and do not have a festival tied to them that would encourage residents to mingle or linger.

Instead, she said Dowagiac’s fireworks allow for social distancing, as there are many places in town where people can view them, with many residents viewing from their homes. This year’s display will be designed so that the fireworks go higher in the air to be seen from a greater distance.

“We have people come maybe a few hours before, they eat, watch the fireworks and go home,” she said. “In this one situation, we are fortunate that we have people come, watch and go home safely.”

By this time in the year, the young professionals have typically begun fundraising for the event, which requires between $6,000 to $7,000 in funding. However, the pandemic has slowed the fundraising process. Members of the young professionals said they planned to use funds from other fundraisers, such as its dances, to help put on the show.

“This year, we have not started that process, because we do understand the pandemic has been very difficult for many,” Grabemeyer said. “We are optimistic that we will be able to collect donations the night of from those who are able.”

Despite the challenges that have come with planning the annual fireworks display amid COVID-19 mandates, Grabemeyer believes it is worth it to keep the tradition alive and brighten the spirits of Dowagiac residents.

“Everyone loves fireworks,” she said. “This is the closest thing to normalcy our group can offer people, and we would hate to have to forgo this because of the pandemic. The fireworks are something people look forward to, and we think this could be something great.”

For updates regarding the Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac’s fireworks display, visit YP Dowagiac on Facebook. To donate to the event, mail contributions to the Young Professionals of Greater Dowagiac, PO Box 586, Dowagiac, or visit the group’s Facebook page.