Kemmeter Column: County celebrates year after quarantine
By Gene Kemmeter
A lot of familiar faces smiled back at people around Portage County during the Fourth of July weekend as crowds flocked to Riverfront Rendezvous in Stevens Point and other events in central Wisconsin in large numbers.
After more than a year of isolation because of the coronavirus pandemic, people were out in force to greet neighbors and friends, many of whom they hadn’t seen since before the pandemic began in March 2020.
A lot of people spent time telling each other about what had taken place during the intervening months since they had seen each other.
While moving through crowds, lines would stop or slow down as someone ran into a friend or acquaintance they hadn’t seen for a long time so they stopped to chat. Everyone had a lot to talk about.
Sunday brought a crowd to Main Street in Stevens Point to watch the annual Fourth of July Parade again. Viewers got to visit with others between the units participating in the parade on a hot, humid afternoon.
The fireworks probably attracted its largest crowd, as viewers gathered on both sides of the Wisconsin River as the fireworks were fired from barges in the river, providing more space to spread out for safe distancing.
The New Hope Firecracker Parade in the town of New Hope attracted one of its larger crowds as a new generation of New Hope residents took over planning for the 39th annual event. Despite fewer participants, the parade exhibited the childlike simplicity and the wackiness of its ancestors.
One group utilized the framework of Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” to pay homage to the parade’s predecessors. “Two score and one year less ago,” a speaker on the float started out, telling the crowd about how the founding mothers and fathers of the annual New Hope Firecracker Parade brought the event to the town of New Hope.
She ended by saying, “this parade of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Thus, as two signs held by others on the float said, “The Legacy Continues.” Another group featured four girls, one dressed in a chicken costume who read chicken riddles for the crowd to answer. “What do you call it when a chicken lays an egg on a roof,” she asked. “An egg roll,” she responded when no one answered. There was no drummer there to perform “da dum tss,” as people laughed or groaned.
The group also caused some barking and rustling among dogs when they released two chickens from a pet carrier on their vehicle. No chickens were harmed while they strutted around on the road in front of the spectators, but dog owners held tightly and pulled back on leashes.
The return of events also allowed people to check out places they hadn’t been to in months. One restaurant that reopened in recent weeks is the Brick Pit House on Main Street in Rosholt, which had closed in the fall of 2021. The place features fish on Fridays and barbecued ribs, barbecued chicken and pulled pork on Saturdays and Sundays.
Hopefully, all those people who were outside mingling with friends and neighbors were vaccinated so the nation reaches a herd-immunity figure of 75-percent vaccinated and doesn’t suffer through another year like 2020 and early 2021. But statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention seems to indicate that is likely not the case.
So far, 67 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot, less than the 70 percent goal of President Joe Biden by July 4. Wisconsin reports 51.9 percent of state adults have at least one shot, while Portage County is at 47.05 percent.
Maybe the nation will reach that herd-immunity goal by Labor Day and the start of schools so some citizens won’t feel reluctant to join celebrations and festivities. The CDC reports 99 percent of new COVID cases involve unvaccinated individuals.