Petoskey Sunrise Rotary Club takes the lead on organizing Petoskey's Fourth of July celebration for 2021.
            Representatives of a variety of organizations have come together to begin preparations for a 2021 Fourth of July celebration in Petoskey.  The group is doing the work with a contingency plan should large gatherings not be allowed when July approaches. Current plans call for a parade, live musical entertainment, and a firework show on Sun., July 4 with an alternate date of Sat. Sept. 4.
            Co-chairs Andy Hayes, Brian Wagner, and Carlin Smith started discussions about organizing the celebration over the winter when they learned there was a need.  The former event organizers, JCI Northern Michigan, previously known as the Petoskey Area Jaycees, came forward to say they could still organize the parade but didn’t have the capacity to do the extensive fundraising needed for the full event.  “We saw a need and decided to step forward,” Smith said.
            All three men are members of the Rotary Club of Petoskey-Sunrise and their club quickly agreed to be the host organization and the fiduciary for the Fourth of July celebration.  “Not only did the club agree to support us with the structure we needed, but they also pitched in in a big way,” Hayes said.  The Sunrise Rotary Club provided a $2,500 match for member contributions which, according to Hayes, has now grown to total more than $7,000.  “That gives us a great foundation to start our fundraising,” Hayes added.
            Although Sunrise Rotary is the anchor, the group has brought in representatives of other service clubs to help.  “Andy stressed from the beginning the need to incorporate the whole community in order to be successful,” Smith said.  “It’s the philosophy of ‘by the community, for the community,” he added.  Members of the steering committee include the three co-chairs as well as Emily Boehm of Thrive 45°, Karen Ragland of the Rotary Club of Petoskey--Noon, Corey Lansing of the Kiwanis Club of Petoskey, and Erin Ver Berkmoes of JCI Northern Michigan. 
            Other partners supporting the effort will be the City of Petoskey, the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau.  The committee leaders say the city’s contributions are integral as they provide the key logistical needs from their Parks and Recreation, Public Safety, and Street Departments as well as provide space for the celebration at Bayfront Park.  The chamber will serve as a clearinghouse for information and a drop-off site for parade applications, and the Petoskey Area Visitors Bureau will provide funding, marketing support and assistance for guests planning trips to the area.
            If COVID restrictions prevent large gatherings on July 4th, the committee has selected September 4th, the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, as the alternate date.  “Whether it’s July or September, either way we’re going to celebrate the fourth,” Smith quipped.  He said if the need arises, the plan is to carry forward all elements of the celebration to September including the parade, the entertainment, and the fireworks. 
            Co-Chair Brian Wagner emphasized the need to keep public safety a priority.  “As we get closer to the event date, we’ll watch the state and the CDC guidelines to develop our COVID protocols,” he said.  “If we can’t do it safely in July, then we’ll postpone and hopefully the situation will be safer in September,” he added.
            The big challenge that now lies before the committee is raising the necessary funds to cover the costs of a community celebration of this magnitude.  “We set a goal of $30,000 to cover our expenses this year,” Hayes said.  JCI Northern Michigan pitched in around $3,000 of carryover funds from previous Fourth of July celebrations.  When combined with the Sunrise Rotary’s $7,000, the committee says they are off to a good start.  Hayes credits committee member Emily Boehm with setting up a good sponsorship structure and the committee is now actively seeking sponsorships from area businesses and organizations.  Private donations will be important as well. 
            Donations can be made online with a credit card or through PayPal on their new website,  Or donations can be mailed to Petoskey Rotary Sunrise Charities, P.O. Box 812, Petoskey, MI  49770.
            Committee members say they look forward to unveiling more details about the celebration as they unfold.  “We really hope the whole community gets excited about this and becomes a part of the Fourth in some way, we really want this to be a community-wide celebration,” Hayes said.