Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird today announced that Lincoln's annual Independence Day celebration, Uncle Sam Jam, is canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The free event at Oak Lake Park typically attracts 30,000 residents and features outdoor activities, food, music and fireworks.
"With the virus present in our community, we have determined that sponsoring an event, even one that might have been scaled back to only a fireworks display, in all likelihood would encourage large numbers of people to gather to get a better view," said Mayor Gaylor Baird. "With no way to predict how many would make that choice to gather - other than past turnout which has been significant - we have decided to err on the side of caution."
In addition to concerns over the virus, Mayor Gaylor Baird said the city's expense for the celebration was also a factor in the decision. The city had budgeted $77,000 for this year's celebration for staffing and production expenses. The fireworks display is privately sponsored.
The Mayor encouraged residents to celebrate in their own yards or neighborhoods, taking all necessary precautions for fireworks and to prevent the spread of the virus. "Let's celebrate our country with an emphasis not only on our independence, but also our interdependence," she said. "Let's honor what it means to be an American not only with sparklers, snaps, and spinners but also with this step that serves to protect and care for one another during an extraordinary moment in our history as a nation."
City ordinance allows the sale and use of permissible fireworks only from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. July 3 and from 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. July 4 of each year.