The Kunkle Fourth of July parade has been canceled.
The decision was reached mutually between organizer John Huffman in consultation with the Williams County Health Department, which acted on its understanding of current Ohio regulations that rule out parades.
“I don’t have any hard feelings for the health department,” said Huffman, chief of the Madison Township-Kunkle Fire Department. “There was nothing we could do but follow the state regulations.”
The feeling was mutual.
“John and I talked this morning and the decision was based off where things are; The governor extended his orders yesterday,” said Watkins. “There’s some hope Thursday it could change, but going day-to-day, it’s hard to plan and I understand that.
“John was good to work with. We tried to do our best and we communicated on a regular basis,” said Watkins. “Unfortunately, this is where we’re at.”
Health department officials and Huffman had waited as long as possible to see if there would be any changes on restrictions regarding parades from the governor’s office ahead of the holiday, but Huffman’s planning deadline has been hit with no change at the state level.
“Even if they opened it up, there’s still not enough time,” Huffman said.
Leading up to the decision, Huffman had proposed several measures to make the parade more viable amidst the pandemic, which the health department deemed insufficient to meet state regulations which broadly prohibit parades.
Annually, the parade is the biggest in the county and temporarily swells the little town of Kunkle’s population from 308 to around 1,000.
“It’s a big community thing, everybody from the county, it affects everybody,” said Huffman. “We haven’t ever missed one before, this will be the first in 58 years.”
Due to the current climate, no make-up event is in the works.
“It’s probably too early for that,“ said Huffman. “We’ll see what the rest of the year brings.”
Some 250 Port-a-Pit chicken dinners already sold will still be available for pick-up at noon at the Kunkle-Madison Township Fire Station on July 4.
Kunkle now joins communities across the state that have had to postpone or cancel Independence Day events of all types.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced he was extending existing COVID-19 orders one week.
On June 26, Ohio had 987 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, its highest single-day total, followed by another 817 on June 27, 854 on June 28 and 737 on June 29. To date, Ohio has seen 45,537 confirmed cases and 2,704 deaths.
Similarly, the U.S. hit a new peak for single-day new confirmed cases on June 26 at 44,726. So far, the U.S. has seen 2.64 million confirmed cases, resulting in 128,000 deaths.
That compares to 61,000 deaths from common influenza virus strains during the 2017-18 season and 34,200 flu deaths in the 2018-19 season.
However, in Williams County, to date there have been just 63 total cases, 47 confirmed with one death and seven hospitalizations recorded. That notion has led many, including the Williams County Republican Party, to call for a county-by-county approach. Such an approach has been touched on by the governor in his press conferences during the past several weeks.
Watkins expressed his hope that in the coming days the governor will roll out some of those measures, which have not been formally detailed by DeWine’s office as of time of publication.
Watkins explained how a parade might be viewed differently in the eyes of the state as opposed to events like car shows, which are now allowed.
“One of the things, with a car show people are moving around, they’re not standing in the same place for extended periods,” said Watkins. “One thing we know when you’re in close contact for an extended period is the virus has a good deal of ability to move from person-to-person ... I think that’s where they’re coming from.”
Size of the event, too, plays a role.
“All of this comes down to risk. The larger the group, the higher the risk,” said Watkins. “Even if we get down to (the governor implementing) county-by-county (regulations), that’s what you’ll still deal with.”