ORLANDO, Fla. – This July Fourth weekend is going to look a little different at Lake Eola Park in Orlando due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Usually, the City of Orlando teams up with News 6 to present Fireworks at the Fountain to Central Florida, but this year, due to coronavirus concerns, Mayor Buddy Dyer had to make the decision to forego the in-person celebration.
News 6′s Justin Warmoth sat down with Dyer to talk about the decision and what things will look like in Orlando moving forward.
Dyer said the decision to cancel the in-person display was a tough one, but an equally important one.
“It was a hard one to cancel this particular event because we recognize the patriotism of our veterans and what’s so special about our country,” Dyer said. “Our country is pulling together now to fight this virus but we needed to make this decision early because we wanted to make the vendors and the people involved informed and not prepared to do it. But it was an easy decision on the other side, there was no reason to bring 100,000 to 150,000 people together in close quarters for an event of that type especially when we can do it virtually and really do a good job with it, so thank you guys for that.”
Instead of the in-person fireworks show this year, in a partnership with the city of Orlando, News 6 will air a special 90-minute show entitled “Our City of Heroes: A July 4th Celebration.” The first hour of the show will focus on everyday heroes from the city of Orlando, especially those that have gone the extra mile during the coronavirus pandemic. Honorees include a variety of volunteers, first responders, healthcare workers and more. The second half of the special will feature a compilation of the brightest and biggest fireworks from the past several years at Lake Eola.
The term hero is one typically reserved for comic book stars and the men and women who defend our country but has taken on a whole new meaning since the global pandemic began.
“Well, certainly when you think in terms of heroes, like our military personnel that have fought for our freedom. This year, we are thinking about all the front line people who have fought this virus, whether it’s the doctors, the nurses, the healthcare professionals, the EMTs, all the way down to our solid waste workers,” said Dyer
Dyer said Central Florida community heroes also include people who have been on the front lines who couldn’t stay at home because they had to continue providing essential services.
“The truck drivers that continue to provide supplies, the store clerks at Publix and other places that were there to make sure that people could still live their lives,” Dyer said.
The mayor said that without numerous partners throughout the community, local leaders would not have been able to make such informed decisions throughout the pandemic. He said these community allies are another example of what makes the Orlando community strong.
“The healthcare professionals at AdventHealth and Orlando Health have just been fantastic in helping guide us through, letting us know what supplies they need. We actually allowed AdventHealth to use the Amway Center as their staging center for all of the supplies that had to come in and it was pretty cool to watch that,” said Dyer. “We were able to put to work people that would normally be staffing concerts and Magic games and they were able to pitch in and help AdventHealth.”
Dyer said he found that when people have an opportunity to serve during this time, it has a profound effect on them whether it’s giving out food or helping with the supply chain to give out medicine and other supplies.
At the end of the day, said Dyer, “Like we always do in Orlando, we come together to help us all go through it.”
Orlando is no stranger to crisis, but the traumas the city has experienced have been met with the resiliency of its residents and surrounding neighbors - a community-wide bond that Dyer doesn’t take for granted.
“I think we always learn and grow from the crises that we’ve had, whether it’s Pulse or the many hurricanes that come through,” said Dyer.
Orlando was also hit with a series of tornado amid the pandemic and ongoing in demonstrations in response to the death of George Floyd.
Moving forward Dyer said he doesn’t know exactly what life will be like or the new normal will be but he does have a message for the community this Fourth of July.
“I’m going to encourage everyone to wear their masks, to continue to social distance and think about each other,” Dyer said. “The reason we’re wearing masks isn’t for ourselves, it’s for our friends, our family members and for people we don’t even know.”
And while fireworks light up the sky this July Fourth, Dyer said he will be watching with continued hope for the city of Orlando and all who call it home.
“I’ll be thinking about all the heroes that we’re showcasing and be thinking about how proud I am to be the mayor of the great City of Orlando,” Dyer said. “I know we’ve had some great shows in the past and you guys are picking out some of the best parts of those, so we’re going to have a great virtual experience and next year, we’ll go back and celebrate outside and have a really big Fourth of July.”
To read the stories of Central Florida heroes, visit ClicKOrlando.com/cityofheros. The special runs from 8-9:30 p.m. Saturday, July 4.