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Social distancing requirements to keep COVID-19 at bay may have put the kibosh on Albuquerque’s Freedom Fourth celebration this year, but Burqueños will still have a blast on Independence Day.
Albuquerque and Bernalillo County are teaming up to stage fireworks displays in each quadrant of the area – “a move that will give people a chance to watch from home wherever they live and avoid congregating in mass gatherings in any one specific area,” the local governments announced Saturday.
The displays will be set to music that will be broadcast on KKOB’s AM and FM radio stations.
“We urge Burqueños to stay home this year and enjoy the fireworks and the time with family,” Mayor Tim Keller said in the news release.
The pyrotechnics will launch from Ladera Golf Course on the West Side, North Domingo Baca Park in the northeast, Los Altos Golf Course at Interstate 40 and Lomas, and Tom Tenorio Park in the southwest. The parks will close to the public several hours ahead of the planned launch time of 9:20 p.m. – Mother Nature permitting.
“The city is strongly discouraging residents from gathering near the launch sites,” the release said.
Meanwhile, neighboring Rio Rancho will have a fireworks display at its City Center, with people will watching from their cars. There will be limited parking.
Rio Rancho’s Fourth of July event has for years been held at Loma Colorado Park, near Rio Rancho High School. This year, it has been moved far north, to the still barren Campus Park at City Center, next to City Hall and the Santa Ana Star Center.
“We were going to be moving it out to City Center anyway, once Campus Park was built, because the goal has always been to have a centralized location for our larger events,” Rio Rancho spokeswoman Annemarie Garcia said Tuesday.
Vehicles will be parked with two empty spaces separating each vehicle, and people will have to watch the fireworks from inside their vehicles, on top of their vehicles or immediately in front of or behind their vehicles, Garcia said.
Because Campus Park has not yet been built, there is no grassy area for people to sit and congregate, something that Rio Rancho officials needed to prevent, Garcia said.
The City Center area will be able to accommodate about 1,000 vehicles, and once the parking spaces are full, vehicles will be turned away.
Vehicles won’t be allowed to park at the adjacent University of New Mexico Sandoval Regional Medical Center.
There will be no portable toilets, although bathroom facilities will be open inside theStar Center. The building, however, will otherwise be closed, and there will be no vendor sales of food or water in the building or anywhere in the City Center area.
The event is free, and visitors may begin parking at 7 p.m., with the fireworks display to start at 9 p.m.
Albuquerque’s Freedom Fourth event at Balloon Fiesta Park features live music, kids activities, arts and crafts, and food vendors leading into the fireworks show.
It generally draws from 30,000 to 50,000 people, said Shelle Sanchez, director of the city’s Cultural Services Department, which organizes the free event.
There is no way to accommodate such crowds while still maintaining social distancing, Sanchez said.
“It was a pretty obvious decision, but it was also really heartbreaking,” Sanchez said. “We love being able to offer that celebration to the community, but there’s really just no way to do that with the current public health order, and we understand that.
“We would much rather put it off this year and all come back together healthy next year.”