A Pandemic Fourth of July Guide

With parades and shows canceled, a primer for where the public can set off and view fireworks

By Maggie Dresser
Ariana Peach Smith waves a flag during the Fourth of July parade through downtown Bigfork on July 4, 2015. Greg Lindstrom | Flathead Beacon

As the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office prepares for its busiest day of the year, officials are expecting a high call volume this Fourth of July, with the holiday falling on a Saturday and an expected increase in personal firework displays with public fireworks shows canceled across the valley.

“I’m sure it’s going to be an adventuresome evening,” Flathead County Sheriff Brian Heino said. “We usually start (getting calls) at 6 p.m. and it’s nonstop until 3 a.m.”

With fireworks shows and parades canceled in Kalispell, Whitefish and Bigfork, Heino expects a large gathering at the Lakeside Fireworks Show, where a significant number of law enforcement and deputies will be staffed. Heino says there will also be heavy staffing in Bigfork, Hungry Horse and Evergreen.

While there’s traditionally never been an official fireworks show in Hungry Horse, Henio says the sheriff’s office has ramped up law enforcement presence in the canyon town after it’s seen a high volume of injuries and incidents in the last 10 years.

“When I was in high school, you’d drive through on July 5 and there would be two to three inches of firework debris,” Heino said. “It was unbelievable.”

And with heavy firework use, injuries often follow. While there was traditionally only one deputy in Hungry Horse on the Fourth of July, Heino now staffs 15 to mitigate the chaos. From shooting fireworks across U.S. Highway 2 to igniting them inside of poles, officials have witnessed a plethora of injuries.

“The big one we’ve seen a lot of is the mortar rounds in inappropriate places,” Heino said. “They’re pointing them at other people and cars … it used to be a crazy time, it’s mellowed a lot and I think people will be spread out a lot this year. I could be wrong but every year we staff up pretty heavy.”

While Hungry Horse’s unofficial fireworks display likely won’t change this year amid the pandemic, Kalispell and Whitefish and Bigfork’s parades and fireworks shows, organized by respective chambers of commerce, will be canceled this year to avoid large gatherings.

Whitefish City Beach typically attracts around 4,000 people for its fireworks show, which city and county health officials determined could not be hosted safely, according to a Whitefish Chamber of Commerce press release.

The Fourth of July pontoon parade on the Swan River in Bigfork will celebrate its fifth year. New this year will be a prize for the most decorated boat. Organizers Olivia Garvey, Nancy Overby and Jutte Hartwell wanted to “perk it up” this year and will be awarding a trophy for the most patriotic pontoon in the free-to-enter contest.

Spectators can head to The Nest on Swan River in Bigfork to watch the parade at 5:30 p.m. sharp. Pontoons will head upriver for a few miles and retreat back down. Garvey says there are usually kayaks and paddleboards out on the water, too, although they are not eligible to be in the contest.

Fireworks are prohibited on all national forests, state forestlands, wildlife management areas, fishing access sites and city parks.

Additionally, fireworks are also prohibited within Kalispell and Columbia Falls city limits. Fireworks can be set off within Whitefish city limits between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. from July 3-4.

Fourth of July Events


Fourth of July Fireworks
Show: 11 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.


Whitefish City Beach Fireworks Show: Canceled 

Whitefish Arts Festival: Depot Park, July 3 through July 5; www.whitefishartsfestival.org


Fourth of July Parade: Canceled 

Pontoon Parade on Swan River: July 4, 5:30 p.m. 

Bigfork Summer Rodeo: Bigfork Rodeo Fairgrounds, July 4 through July 6; bigforkrodeo.com


Fourth of July Parade: Canceled


Fourth of July Parade: Canceled

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