The freedom to celebrate during the upcoming Fourth of July weekend appears to be moving forward as a select group of local stakeholders have formed a parade board with the express intention of seeing Dickinson celebrate the nation’s Independence Day.

Rep. Mike Lefor of District 37, Stark County Sheriff Corey Lee, Stark County Fairgrounds Manager Lisa Heiser and Stark County Commissioner Carla Arthaud comprise the parade board and have already begun preliminary discussions and meetings with City of Dickinson leaders concerning the parade.

Lee, speaking on behalf of the parade board, confirmed that the Dickinson Police Department has agreed to contribute their usual resources to ensure the celebration moves forward with public safety in mind.

Confirmation of the parade comes following a May 14 Facebook post by Lee in which he expressed the parade board’s desire to bring smiles to the faces of residents faced with a summer of canceled events. The post attracted hundreds of comments, likes and shares.

“Well the Fourth of July is on Saturday this year and I have convinced myself that Dickinson needs to have a parade,” the post read. “It sounds as though I am very much not alone, so I believe that’s what we may do.”

Speaking with The Press on Monday, Lee outlined some of the details concerning what a Fourth of July parade would look like and how plans are moving forward.

“The celebration and parade will go much as it does every year with the parade scheduled for Saturday, July 4, with the same route as it is every year and we’re trying to keep everything consistent with what we’ve done in the past,” Lee said. “Typically the parade runs on a lot of volunteers, so that’s going to be our biggest hurdle, but I think we’re going to be alright because there’s really been an outpouring of support.”

Addressing the considerations being made in light of the coronavirus, Lee said public safety is the highest priority but expressed on behalf of the parade board that southwest North Dakota has done a phenomenal job in being smart during this pandemic — highlighting that the county hasn’t had a positive case in more than a week and remains at 61 positive cases in a county of more than 35,000.

“I think we see people interacting with each other far worse at the bar each weekend and at Walmart than we will at the parade,” Lee said. “The people that came together on this really feel that this is something that the community wants. Our community has shown that we can be safe and smart by showing that we can not have this spread like wildfire.”

Lee added, “If we’ve been doing so well, why continue to punish ourselves.”

The parade board’s plans to host the parade will come with some minor risks, and they expressed that people should exercise their own agency in choosing whether to attend or not.

“I’ve been part of this parade for 15 years now and it’s not a wall-to-wall attendance, and there is enough room on the route to spread out and be safe. Some people can sit in their cars and watch the parade if they prefer, and I believe that most of the clusters we do see are going to be family and friends who are spending time together anyway,” Lee said. “The parade is, of course, a come at your own risk situation and if you don’t feel safe then you shouldn’t come. If you feel like you are in a spot where you feel uncomfortable you can always move or leave. I think there is plenty of room on this route and people can certainly maintain social distancing.”

The parade board said that guidelines are forthcoming and that they will outline some of the changes from previous years in that guidance.

“We’re still kicking some ideas around and by the time we start registration, we’ll have firm guidelines,” Lee said. “We probably won’t permit anyone to walk in the parade and certainly don’t want people jumping off floats and approaching the crowd to shake hands or hand out flyers and things like that. There will be candy because it’s a parade, but we don’t want any breaking of the social distance guidelines if we can.”

The parade board said that they are encouraging all people to participate, including having first responders, nurses, teachers and more involved, but ultimately said that the parade was more of an individual parade for all citizens than one focused on any specific industry or entity.

“It’s the Fourth of July parade and it’s a big part of why we felt so strongly about doing this. We want people participating within that theme and it’s about bringing our community together,” Lee said. “I really feel this is something that our community needs, we are not doing this for us but for each other. We need to do something for the youth in our community. Kids want that, they need it.”

The parade board expressed their high respect and appreciation for the Roughrider Commission, who have hosted the annual Roughrider Days parade, commending their excellent example of how a parade should be handled.

“This isn’t going to be as organized a parade as that put on by the wonderful Roughrider Commission, so I hope that people will bear with us on this because they’ve done a phenomenal job and we hope to emulate them because the show must go on,” Lee said. “We’ll do our best with it, but it’s not going to be as crisp and clean as their parade.”

Speaking to the canceled Roughrider Parade, Lee said that they were faced with some tough decisions and they did what they believed was best.

“I don’t blame them and our parade board made contact with them and expressed our appreciation for what they do and they said for us to go ahead with this Fourth of July parade,” Lee said. “That’s what we’re going to do.”

The parade board members will be meeting later in the week to discuss the parade, and are asking that citizens contact the Sheriff’s Office.

“We’re going to run the registration process through our offices for simplicity sake,” Lee said. “We will answer any questions, share the guidelines and listen to any comments, concerns or suggestions on making this parade a fantastic opportunity for residents to enjoy themselves on our nation’s Independence Day.”