Idaho Falls, Idaho – May 14, 2020 – Similar to numerous locations around the country and after evaluating a range of options for safely holding the 28th Annual Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, event organizers have made the difficult decision to cancel Riverfest and the fireworks show due to restrictions brought forth by the coronavirus pandemic.
As the largest fireworks show west of the Mississippi River, the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration draws an enormous crowd estimated at more than 200,000 people into downtown Idaho Falls and Snake River Landing. It has become the largest event in the state of Idaho, causing thousands of visitors to travel here from all around the region to watch the free 31-minute fireworks display and participate in a family-friendly event at Riverfest.
Ultimately, with an eye on public health and safety in our community, Melaleuca and Riverbend Communications, which organizes Riverfest, determined that the tough but right decision was to cancel the events. Although guidance from Governor Little and health officials played a role in the decision-making process, the main motivation was simply a concern to protect our community from the spread of the coronavirus.
“Celebrating the 4th of July with the entire community is one of my favorite experiences of the year,” Melaleuca CEO Frank VanderSloot said. “Many people have gone to this event every year since they were young, and they now bring their own children and grandchildren to it. I’m disappointed that we’re unable to hold this event, which has become an American tradition for me and so many of our friends and neighbors. I am sure that everyone shares this disappointment. In the end, the safety of our community and our families trump all other considerations.”
VanderSloot and the event team did not make this decision lightly. It came after seriously exploring alternative sites that could hold a world-class fireworks show and allow viewers to practice social distancing.
As part of the process, they considered launching the fireworks from a high ridge in the Ammon foothills, allowing spectators to watch the fireworks from virtually anywhere and from miles away. Arrangements had been made with a land-owner in case the site was approved by Bonneville County.
Working with county officials, the City of Idaho Falls, and the Idaho Falls Fire Department, which has a fire protection service agreement to protect this particular spot, the team vetted the site. Ultimately, though the location had advantages such as impressive sightlines of the fireworks, the Fire Chief concluded the risk to life, property and the environment would be too great.
Melaleuca and Riverbend Communications would like to thank the community for its patience as it reviewed the situation and explored alternative options for holding the show. It also thanks the Idaho Falls Fire Department for thoroughly vetting the possibilities.
“The meaning of the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration is to pay tribute to our heroes, such as our Founding Fathers, our veterans, our soldiers and their families,” VanderSloot said. “We should remember the courageous men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.”
“We are already working behind the scenes to deliver an even bigger fireworks display in 2021,” VanderSloot said. “The Melaleuca Freedom Celebration will return bigger and better than ever!”