When was the last time 400,000 people gathered in Utah?
After being forced to cancel most of its festivities last year, the America’s Freedom Festival is back and plans to attract more than 400,000 guests to various July 4th events this weekend, including filling more of 30,000 seats at LaVell Edwards Stadium.
The Stadium of Fire will celebrate its 40th anniversary on Saturday, bringing together Grammy-winning country musician Lee Greenwood, the Nitro Circus motorcycle stunt team, the 500-voice Millennial Choir and country singer Collin Raye. The event will culminate with the largest stadium fireworks show in the United States.
It is expected to be one of the largest gatherings of people since March of last year, when COVID-19 restrictions began.
Events throughout the month will follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as stricter guidelines imposed by BYU. The stadium will have hand sanitizing stations to remind customers to stay hygienic, and seats will only be two-thirds of their capacity.
âOur indoor events have signs – ‘If you’re sick, stay away,’â said Jim Evans, executive director of the festival. âOtherwise, outside, we let people guide themselves. It has been a trying year for America and for our community here in Utah, but our nation is strong and we are thrilled to be back at the stadium to celebrate our independence.
As the festival opens its doors to everyone, health officials are warning guests to think carefully about the risks before coming to the festival. The number of cases is on the rise again in the state, especially with the highly contagious delta variant taking hold in Utah, according to Aislynn Tolman-Hill, public information manager for the County of Health Department. Utah. At his press conference Thursday, Governor Spencer Cox announced that Utah sees the Delta variant more than Los Angeles.
âPeople should really take this information into consideration if they go out and stay in close contact with others,â Tolman-Hill said. “This risk is something to be weighed down, especially if they are not vaccinated.”
The vaccines currently show very good protection against the delta variant, according to data from the Department of Health and CDC. For those who are not vaccinated, the CDC still advises social distancing and the use of masks to lessen the spread of the virus.
Whatever the risks, Evans still feels safe attending the event this year, saying he believes most residents of Provo have been vaccinated. However, as of Thursday, only 42% of Utah County residents were fully vaccinated, according to state data. Some areas, such as Eagle Mountain and Cedar Valley, have reported a full vaccination rate of less than 30%.
Utah County has a long tradition of actively opposing vaccinations, Tolman-Hill said.
“We certainly have a lot of people who have been very not only hesitant about vaccines, but just very anti, anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination, who have been very articulate about this,” Tolman-Hill said. .
Evans insists he worked under local and state guidelines, as well as special guidelines offered by BYU, to make sure the event is safe.
âIf people want to wear a mask, they’re welcome,â Evans said. âWe follow all normal protocols and we work with the county and the sites to make sure it’s a safe activity. We want people to reconnect with family traditions and celebrate our independence with this event. “