2019 file photo

Plans are moving ahead for a full slate of Freedom Fest Independence Day celebration events—including the downtown parade and fireworks—in Morgan Hill this summer, according to organizers.

The effort to conduct live, in-person events on July 3 and 4 with no public health-related attendance restrictions is bolstered by rapidly increasing Covid-19 vaccination rates in Santa Clara and surrounding communities, and the state’s plans to fully reopen California’s economy by June 15, according to Morgan Hill Freedom Fest President Matthew Stein.

Organizers are also encouraged by the most recent public health guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control, Stein added. The CDC’s current recommendations say it is safe for fully vaccinated people to congregate outdoors, with or without masks.

With about 73 percent of Santa Clara County residents and 50 percent of Californians having received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine as of May 10, Freedom Fest organizers expect to be able to host the downtown parade, Family Music Fest and other popular events without strict social distancing requirements.

“If 2020 taught us anything, it is to be flexible,” Stein cautioned. “But at this point, we are planning a 100 percent normal Fourth of July. It will be just like 2019, but better.”

That includes the full schedule of in-person events that were canceled by the pandemic last year: July 3 Patriotic Sing featuring local children; July 3 Family Music Fest concert and street dance; July 4 Freedom Run 5K and related events; July 4 Car Cruise and parade; July 4 evening “Fireworks on the Green,” which includes live entertainment, contests, games and refreshments.

The events will be subject to the current public health guidelines that will be in effect as of July, and that may include a requirement for everyone to wear masks, Stein noted.

Most events will take place throughout downtown Morgan Hill. The 2021 fireworks show and preceding events will take place at the Outdoor Sports Center, starting at 5pm with bands, food vendors, a pie eating contest and other family fun, Stein said.

The theme for the 2021 Freedom Fest is “Celebrating Our Heroes.”

The 2020 Morgan Hill Fourth of July celebration was canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions on public gatherings. Organizers produced some of the events in a virtual format that was broadcast on the internet.

The local parade is the longest-running known Independence Day parade in Santa Clara County, and 2021 will be the 146th annual holiday procession in Morgan Hill.

The events are organized by the local nonprofit Independence Day Celebrations, which leads an extensive fundraising drive each year to pay for the celebrations. Stein said one of the biggest challenges this year is gaining sponsorship funding from the business community, which is also suffering from the economic fallout of the pandemic.

“We are hoping many of (these businesses) that did well will consider being part of this 146-year tradition,” Stein said.

At the same time, Freedom Fest 2021 has seen impressive early financial support from individual community members, more than 200 of whom have donated to this year’s Independence Day events, Stein added.

“We are so thrilled that the community has stepped up. We’re not there yet, but we’re humbled by the generosity of the community,” Stein said.

New for the 2021 July 4 parade, entrants will stage on Monterey Road just north of downtown, instead of Depot Street. This will allow the city to keep the parking garage on Fourth Street open for public parking throughout the events, Stein added.

Registration is now open for the July 4 parade and Freedom Run. To register, and to view more information about the Freedom Fest events, visit morganhillfreedomfest.com.

All events are free for spectators.

For updates, follow “Morgan Hill Freedom Fest” on Facebook.

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.