RIO GRANDE, Ohio — Rockets Over Rio is set to happen this October but with some adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“People need something like this. This has been a bad year on everyone,” Matt Easter, the mayor of Rio Grande, said. “We’re just trying to put on an event that can still bring people together while still keeping them apart.”
The event is known for its spectacular fireworks display. This will be the fourteenth year that it has taken place, but until very recently, organizers were afraid the event would be canceled due to the public health crisis. As of July 15, Gallia County has had a total of 25 cases (22 confirmed, three probable), according to the Gallia County Health Department. According to Easter, Rockets Over Rio will be structured around public health measures to ensure that the event still safely takes place.
“It’s going to be a lot different than the past,” Easter said.
Organizers are “working hand in hand with the state of Ohio, the university, the Health Department,” he added. “Instead of doing food sales and gathering things like music or a beer garden, those things will not be done because we’re trying to keep people separate because of the time we’re in with the virus.”
Easter said that event organizers also plan to have socially distanced-style parking, where every other parking spot is available. Attendees will be encouraged to remain with their vehicles.
Rockets Over Rio is a fundraiser event, and no tax dollars are used for the show. In 2019, about $12,000 was raised to go towards the event. Because of the uncertainty of the public health situation, organizers are behind on fundraising.
Even if the pandemic worsens, Easter believes it will make the 2021 show even better.
“If, God forbid, that this virus gets worse, and things get even scarier than they are now and we would have to cancel the event, we will refund the money to all of our donors, or we will carry it to the 2021 fireworks show,” Easter said.
Despite the current situation, Easter is proud to see how far Rockets Over Rio has come.
“I started that thing years ago and never thought I’d see it grow to see where it is now,” Easter said. “If you would have been at the first show and seen it, there’s people that let off more in their backyard on the 4th of July. To see it grow to what it’s become has been amazing for everyone involved.”
Rockets Over Rio is made possible through support from the University of Rio Grande, Bob Evans Farms, and donors.
This year’s show is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10.
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Sharla Moody is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing from Gallipolis, Ohio. She is a graduate of River Valley High School and currently attends Yale University.