By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Celebrating the Fourth of July might look and feel different this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many events to cancel, but as Gov. Tim Walz eased restrictions last week, one town northwest of the metro quickly organized a celebration.

The explosion of colors in the sky, reflecting off smiling awestruck faces, is an annual tradition on the birthday of the United States — one often shared with neighbors in towns across Minnesota. And one of the few places to enjoy that kind of celebration this July will be at the first-ever Big Lake Freedom Festival. Jeff Zierdt is the event’s organizer.

“It’s a one-off that was spawned really from the cancellation of the Big Lake Spud Fest, which is the annual event that’s held here every year for the past 40-plus years,” Zierdt said.

He, along with city leaders and community groups, picked Lakeside Park, which has five acres of land where people can be socially distant. They’re also encouraging, but not requiring, people to wear masks.

“And really I think as long as we’re all not letting down our guard, taking the precautionary measures that we need to, whether it’s the distancing and the family, I think we can all be safe as we kind of guide our way through this,” Zierdt said.

According to Gov. Walz’s “Stay Safe Plan,” gatherings of no more than 250 people are allowed. A spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Health told WCCO that Freedom Festival organizers must ensure all 250 people can be socially distant, and advises those attending to wear masks when possible.

The event will have live music, food trucks and a beer garden. Zierdt says the fireworks will launch from the high school, reaching heights that will allow people to see and hear them well beyond the festival’s grounds.

“Nice clear night, everybody’s gonna be able to enjoy the fireworks, and really remember what summertime is about,” Zierdt said.

The Big Lake Freedom Festival is Thursday, July 2. Click here for more information.

Jeff Wagner

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