Despite the state tightening restrictions on public gatherings, the cities of Sherman and Denison are moving forward with plans for Independence Day celebrations later this week, albeit with precautions in place.


Under the renewed restrictions, outdoor gatherings of more than 100 people are forbidden without permission from the local city of municipality. On Friday, both cities indicated they planned to move forward with their respective events.


"We feel like people will be responsible because they have been, and will enjoy their fourth of July holiday," Denison Main Street Director Donna Dow said. "It is always a tough call when you are dealing with our residents and visitors, but we believe that they can maintain a safe distance and a sense of normalcy."


Sherman also decided to cancel children’s activities for its 11th annual Lights on the Lake celebration at Pecan Grove Park. In doing so, organizers have freed up space for people to space out between each other, Tourism Manager Sarah McRae said.


For its annual concert on Thursday, Sherman will be hosting the 80s Rock Tour, featuring Steve Augeri from Journey, Asia’s John Payne and former Kansas lead singer John Elefante.


Sherman is also asking people to space out and spread out across the park, but said organizers will not be policing this and are asking people to use their best discretion.


"Celebrating Independence Day is important to a lot of people across the united state, especially here and it is a tradition we wanted to continue," McRae said.


McRae said Pecan Grove Park is a large venue and should have more than enough space to allow people to be safe while enjoying the concert.


McRae said organizers are uncertain how many people to expect for this year’s concert and fireworks show, as it has historically been difficult to count people given the scope of the location. However, she said she would not be surprised if this year saw a smaller turn out.


"That is okay. We are fine with that, but I would anticipate a smaller crowd this year," she said.


With regard to attendance, McRae said she believes that this year’s event will primarily draw from the local community rather than attracting fans from other areas across the region.


"This is a big celebration for our community, but you usually stay in the city you are in for your fireworks show," she said.


This year’s Lights on the Lake will begin at 4 p.m. with a DJ playing. The concert itself will begin at around 7:30 p.m. Organizers are opening two entrances for this year’s event, and concertgoers will be ablew to enter on both FM 1417 and West Lamberth.


On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott announced he was issuing an executive order that would reimpose restrictions on outdoor public gatherings amid growing cases of COVID-19 statewide. The order also shuttered bars across the state and returned restaurants to 50 percent capacity.


Denison elected to continue its traditional fireworks display on July 4 at Munson Stadium after observing crowds during the recent Music on Main concerts. Following the decision to move to Forest Park for more space, crowds naturally spaced out.


Inside the stadium itself, the city will be blocking off some seating to limit the number of people sitting in the stadium. The same configuration was used in June during the Denison High School Graduation.


"It is still marked that way and we will be abiding by that," Dow said.


Crowds will still be able to sit on the football field to watch the show, but are being asked to social distance from each other. Dow said organizers are still working out how this will be enforced, but said the show could be stopped if people do not comply.


"We’ve not had time to think it through yet," she said. "We just found out on Friday how significant the governor’s guidance is yet."


Despite the event normally bringing 2,000 people into the stadium, Dow said she expects that everyone will be able to find a good vantage point throughout downtown for the fireworks display.


"We have quite a few who watch from Heritage Park, and even more who find their favorite part of downtown to settle in and watch," she said.


For those who plan to find a less dense place to watch the show, Dow said KATY Country 93.1 will be simulcasting the event across the radio.


"This means that you could watch the show from anywhere and hear the same music we are hearing in the stadium," she said, adding that the city plans to live stream the show on Facebook.


Despite moving forward with the event, Dow said organizers elected to forego children’s events and activities this year due to the ongoing pandemic.


Dow said the stadium will open to the public at 7 p.m.for a live show by Rocky and the Bullwinkles. The fireworks show will take place once the sun goes down around 9 p.m.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.