NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – With less than two weeks until Independence Day, public celebrations are expected to be vastly different across New Mexico in 2020. While some of the state’s largest cities have already canceled their standard festivities due to COVID-19 concerns, a few municipalities around the Albuquerque-metro area are planning to move forward with modified shows that observe social distancing practices.
The city of Rio Rancho and the Village of Los Lunas have both announced plans for large-scale firework shows. However, those shows are departing from their normal locations. Los Lunas parks officials announced in a recent Facebook video that their fireworks display will be moved from Fernandez Park to the hills west of the city. City officials plan to launch a public display from the “LL Hill” near the I-25 exit.
“We want all of Los Lunas to be able to see and it’s a beautiful view from up here,” said Jason Duran, director of Los Lunas Parks & Recreation.
Village officials in Los Lunas are encouraging people to drive to a nearby parking lot and social distance from others while watching the fireworks display. Meanwhile, the city of Rio Rancho is taking a similar approach near the City Center complex on the north end of the city, near the Santa Ana Star Center.
Rio Rancho is planning what it calls a “Fourth of July Drive-In Fireworks Extravaganza.” The city says it will let the first 1,000 cars into the City Center lot to view a display from their vehicles, while “adhering to state-mandated social distancing guidelines.”
“This is one of those things that I believe we can do and we can safely accomplish this and give everybody this fireworks display, celebrate the Fourth of July,” said Rio Rancho Mayor Gregg Hull. “We can do it in a safe way and showing that we can come together as a community while remaining somewhat apart.”
Mayor Hull says event staff will require everyone to park with two empty spaces between each vehicle. People will be asked to stay in their parking spots and avoid mingling around.
Typically, Rio Rancho does its fireworks display at Loma Colorado Park for thousands of peoples, many of whom sit on the grass at the park. However, those kinds of mass gatherings are prohibited under New Mexico’s current public health order.
Meanwhile, drive-ins gatherings are allowed under the state’s current public health order. Seeing the success of drive-in movies in Rio Rancho, Mayor Hull says he believes the city can hold a fireworks gathering safely and successfully.
“So many people have given up so many things,” Mayor Hull said. “I think that having the 4th of July fireworks display is a reminder that we are moving on, we are carrying on and we’re going to have a good time with this.”
Rio Rancho’s fireworks event won’t have any vendors on site selling food or drinks, so the city is asking that people bring their own. Everyone going is also required to wear face masks while outside of their cars.
The city of Albuquerque has already canceled its typical “Freedom Fourth” concert and fireworks show. However, a spokeswoman for Mayor Tim Keller said Tuesday that the city is coming up with “an alternative plan for fireworks on the 4th of July,” which will be “releasing more details on soon.”
Other large firework celebrations in Santa Fe have been canceled for 2020. The Albuquerque Isotopes have also canceled their typical firework festivities around July 4, as the team has postponed its season indefinitely.