July 3, 2020 — This Fourth of July will look different for many people across the country. Due to social distancing regulations most large-scale Independence Day events are canceled. Locally, this includes the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce annual fireworks show over the Siuslaw River and the pie and watermelon eating contest hosted by Florence Habitat for Humanity and the City of Florence.
“We were really disappointed because we had taken the pie and watermelon eating contest and were expanding it this year,” said Janell Morgan, the executive director of Florence Habitat for Humanity. “We were going to do a kid’s bike parade and have live music. We had all sorts of things planned. So, we were really disappointed when it all got cancelled.”
After hearing about the cancellations, Morgan, along with the rest of Habitat’s Fourth of July celebration committee, began brainstorming other possible ways to honor the holiday as a community while following health and safety protocols.
“We thought, ‘We still need to do something,’ you know? We couldn’t come up with really any virtual ideas and the porch parade just kind of came together,” Morgan said.
This year will be the first annual Fourth of July Porch Parade, where the Florence community is encouraged to show their spirit by decorating their porch, yard, window or fence in festive ways. Community members who registered for the events by Wednesday afternoon were entered into a decorating contest. On Friday, starting at 11 a.m., the celebration committee will drive through the decorated neighborhoods and judge the participating homes and businesses.
“It’s a social distancing event, but a way that we can still all show our community pride and pride for our country — and have some fun while bringing smiles to neighbors faces,” Morgan said.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 20 people from several neighborhoods had registered to compete in the decorating contest. The most up-to-date virtual map of the decorated homes and businesses can be found at www.florencehabitat.org under the events page.
“This is kind of a rough time for a lot of people, so this is a way that you can social distance but get out and still have some enjoyment,” Morgan said. “I’m hoping that people will take their kids for a walk through the neighborhoods that are decorating or go for a drive around the neighborhoods.”
For Morgan, the porch parade is a way to also give back to the community who has contributed time and money into Florence Habitat through volunteering and donations.
“(Fourth of July) is not something that we do as a fundraiser,” Morgan said. “We do it just as a community celebration. It’s our way of thanking the community, which is why it was really important to us to still have some sort of an event this year.”
Local volunteer Dan Lofy will pull a decorated trailer through the participating neighborhoods while the judges view the decorations on Friday. Morgan said to expect “patriotic music” to be playing as they travel around town.
As the Porch Parade is a competition, there will be prizes awarded to the top three best decorated porches, including gift certificates to Laurel Bay, Habitat ReStore and The Wren’s Nest. Businesses who have entered the competition will also have the chance to win $260 in advertising on KCST Coast Radio.
The winners of the competition will be announced on Saturday at 10 a.m. on KCST Coast Radio. People can also look for “a special sign or banner” which will be placed in the winners’ yards after the judging is complete.
Morgan re-emphasized how this event not only allows the community to celebrate together while at a distance, but also allows Habitat to show its appreciation for the community volunteers who make its mission possible.
“We have a new slogan that Habitat is using and it’s ‘Home, Communities, Hope + You.’ It’s part of our mission statement,” she said. “I think it really shows how our mission is also relying on volunteers and community participation. I personally love it.”
For more information about Florence Habitat for Humanity, visit www.florencehabitat.org or stop by the Habitat ReStore, 2016 Highway 101.