COVID-19 has claimed another victim.
The traditional Independence Day festivities in Lutz will not be held this year.
For decades, the community, north of Tampa, has attracted thousands of people to its annual Fourth of July parade, and associated activities.
But, this year, organizers decided it was just too risky to stage the annual event.
“We mulled it over for many, many weeks. It wasn’t a decision made lightly, I can assure you,” said Annette Bellingar, president of the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club.
Ultimately, said Pat Serio, a club board member: “We had to choose the safe route.”
Bellingar said: “When we thought about it, we thought there is just no way that we’re going to get people to be doing the proper social distancing at an event such as this.
“Can you imagine having all of those people there and saying, ‘You’ve got to be 6 feet apart?’” Bellingar said.
The close quarters between people raised concerns, Serio said. Plus, she noted: “In the usual extreme heat we have on Fourth of July, even mask-wearing could be difficult.”
Still, canceling the festivities was not an easy choice, Serio said.
The event has been an annual tradition for many families.
Generally, the parade featured widely known local organizations, such as the GFWC Lutz-Land O’ Lakes Woman’s Club, the Little Women of Lutz, the Lutz Civic Association, Boy Scout Troop 12 and the North Tampa Lutz Cadet Squadron.
Local businesses, churches, law enforcement agencies, schools, military organizations politicians and candidates for the honorary Lutz Guv’na are mainstays, too.
It’s been a parade that features antique cars, fire trucks, sheriff’s patrol cars, belly dancers, martial arts groups, churches, military jeeps, tiny dancers and kids riding bicycles.
It’s also a parade where it’s not unusual for someone in the parade to break ranks and rush out to hug someone in the crowd.
Traditionally, once the parade ends, a new Lutz Guv’na is sworn in over a copy of Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham,” and the bidding war begins over baked goods that were entered into the annual Cake Bake Competition.
But, none of that will happen this year.
“It really is heartbreaking because we know how important it is to the community. People love it. It’s a throwback to all of our childhoods, small-town America,” Serio said.
Ultimately, the event had to be cancelled, organizers said.
“Sad as it is, I know, I really, really know, that we’ve done the right thing,” Bellingar said.
“It would be so sad that if something like this was held this year and then following that, it brought to the surrounding area a huge spike in people coming down with the virus and maybe even passing from it,” the club president said. “We just thought that would be the most atrocious thing, ever, to happen.
“Next year, we are hoping that everything would be truly wonderful, and it would be bigger and better in 2021,” Bellingar said.
Published June 03, 2020