Memorial Day festivities still in question due to COVID-19

BURTON — As Memorial Day approaches, the city is uncertain about whether it will be able to hold a celebration or if everything will be cancelled again this year because of the pandemic.

Mayor Duane Haskins said the city is still seeking sponsors for what is supposed to be the 25th annual parade, ceremony and fireworks display.

But the mayor expressed some concern at the council’s March 1 meeting that efforts to raise money for the event might fall short.

“I want to pick council’s brains on Memorial Day festivities,” said Haskins. “We are diligently trying to get sponsors and help, but in the event we strikeout and we’re not able to get the normal donations that we do, will council transfer or allow some of the money to be used for (cancelled parks and recreation events)?”

Last year the Burton Parks and Recreation Commission had money budgeted for its annual Easter Egg Hunt, the Halloween Trick or Treat Trail and Pizza with Santa – all of which were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Already this year the Easter Egg Hunt has again been cancelled and the Memorial Day race will be held virtually.

Haskins said he thinks things like those cancelled events, approved in the budget, could be diverted to help out with the Memorial Day festivities, fireworks and the parade.

The city currently has $20,000 in the budget for fireworks and festivities at the Memorial Day event scheduled, but Haskins said it’s the donations it receives from sponsors – mostly businesses in the community – that may be lacking this year.

Many businesses, he admits, have been hit hard by COVID-19 shutdowns and might not have the money to donate this Memorial Day.

“We do have money budgeted in the Memorial Day parade fund for activities and things like that, but in the event we can’t get donations like we normally do, because a lot of the businesses that donate have been closed down, we might not be able to afford it,” said Haskins.

He said the city did reach out to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHSS), along with the Genesee County Health Department, and were told they have no idea where we’ll be sitting in May in regard to COVID-19.

“But they do know having outdoor activities does lessen the spread of COVID, so they feel that we should be fine because we don’t have any indoor events,” said Haskins.

Besides the approximately $20,000 budgeted for the parade and other activities, there is about $2,000 budget for each parks and recreation event cancelled in 2020 and so far in 2021.

“So, the money is in the budget, so I guess the question becomes the timeline,” said Councilman Vaughn Smith. (The parks and recreation commission) are all working on it. I don’t see where we’d have any trouble financially – I think the money is there.”

A finance committee meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. before the March 15 city council meeting and the use of the leftover funds for the Memorial Day festivities will be discussed at that time.