The American spirit in a pandemic
SMALL STONE – This year, July 4th will be quieter than anyone else in our lives. This is perhaps most evident in small towns like Piggott, where July 4th is the biggest event of the year.
July 4th in Piggott is a family-friendly small town Independence Day celebration that many of us remember. It’s a homecoming, carnival, and political event that ends with fireworks in one day. Many politicians campaigned at the Piggott picnic on July 4th. I took my first in 1986 and campaigned there when I ran for governor in 2014.
But this year, for the first time since 1931, the COVID-19 pandemic forced Piggott to cancel his picnic, carnival, beauty pageant and fried chicken dinner.
The fireworks are the only tradition the city hasn’t canceled.
The Picnic is the Piggott Cemetery Association’s largest fundraiser. Fred Ort is the club’s president and he’s not sure how the club will make up for the lost funds, but he’s confident.
Fred’s family moved to Piggott when he was 12, and he has attended every picnic since then. He is 68 years old.
In the past few years the carnival was already in full swing and the club members were busy with the final preparations. He said life felt a little empty and scary right now.
But the city leaders decided to hold the fireworks display at 10 a.m. on Saturday night. Most people are definitely watching from their own yard and you can see the ad from the outskirts of Piggott, which has a population of 3,700 so there won’t be a crowd in one place.
I like Piggott’s mind. Businesses and churches have followed health guidelines to protect their residents. The school district has canceled sports programs and postponed graduation until the end of July. The cemetery association has canceled the traditional picnic, its main source of income and a source of pride for the city.
In the middle of it all, with the fireworks, they found a way to safely preserve part of their tradition. On Saturday evening, members of the fire brigade will light up the sky.
The spirit of Piggott is the spirit of Arkansas, and the spirit of Arkansas is the spirit of American independence which we celebrate on July 4th. We work together, be it a global pandemic or the growing pains of our republic. At the end of the day we light up our skies to show that we are still here and that we are still strong.