Morgan Hill fiercely debates Fourth of July celebration

June 9, 2012 6:56:34 PM PDT
A South Bay community is in the middle of a fierce debate over how it celebrates the Fourth of July. The all-volunteer effort will still include a parade and fireworks, but one big change is causing a stir.

Morgan Hill is known for showing its patriotic pride on the Fourth of July. There's two days of events which include fireworks and a parade that draws people from around the Bay Area.

"I wish it would go from the entire Monterey strip to San Jose," said Caroline Brooks, an annual parade spectator.

The celebrations also include a July 3rd street dance and every year downtown merchants look forward to the crowds, which is why an abrupt change this year to a smaller event at the city's community and cultural center is a huge blow.

"It's more than just losing the revenue that night. I think the community likes to hang out in the streets. It's kind of a fun night," said Rosy Bergin, owner of Rosy's at the Beach.

Dedicated volunteers who organize all of the Freedom Fest activates say the street dance got to be too much of a party and jeopardized having a clean downtown for the parade the next morning.

"To now 8,000-9,000 people, with tremendous amount of alcohol and security concerns and bathrooms and all the other stuff street closures," said Charles Weston, the Freedom Fest president.

The change has ignited a firestorm of debate with many people accusing Freedom Fest organizers of not caring enough about the needs of small businesses still struggling with a tough economy.

"In order to keep them happy and keep them here, I think it's really important that we don't move it," said Nick Firato of Morgan Hill.

Organizers now admit the decision could have been better communicated and many business owners say they do understand the tremendous volunteer effort required for a safe event.

"I do hope they can move it back downtown and it can all be worked out, so we can have it right back here where it belongs in Downtown Morgan Hill," said Susan Beadles of Morgan Hill.

Freedom Fest volunteers and local businesses are so determined to calm this emotional debate and work together, they will soon be issuing a joint statement in the local paper.

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