Williamston cancels Freedom Celebration over liability concerns


The Town of Williamston has decided to cancel the upcoming 4th of July Freedom Celebration and fireworks.
The annual event is one of the town’s largest, drawing several thousand people each year who come for food, music, car show and cruise in and free fireworks.
In a special called meeting Tuesday, Mayor Mack Durham said that the vendor the town had contracted for the fireworks was not able to secure fireworks due to import restrictions from China.
During discussions, Councilman Rockey Burgess said several other towns in the upstate were having fireworks and offered that he had contacted a company in Easley that could do the show on July 4th if the town decided to proceed.
The Class E show would provide fireworks that don’t go quite as high as some the town had in the past, would be at a cost of $5000, half of what was budgeted.
Burgess said the event would be “a positive for our citizens” and that “during 2020 they have had a lot taken away from them.”
He also said that the event is a big draw for local restaurants. He said that with social distancing and encouraging precautions and that it is outdoors, he event would offer an opportunity “to spend time with our families.”
Williamston Fire Chief Steve Ellison said if the town held the event, the fire department could still coordinate the cruise in.
He said the event provides funding for trophies for the Spring Water Festival Car Show in August.
When the issue of liability came up, council moved to go into executive session to receive legal advice from town Attorney Lee Cole.
After about a fifteen minute executive session, council returned to open session and decided in a 4-0 vote, not to hold the Freedom Celebration.
Councilman Chris Alexander had a prior commitment and could not attend.
After the meeting, Mayor Durham said he was very disappointed the event is canceled.
“I regret that we can’t have the Freedom Celebration,” he said. ”There were just so many factors against it, that in the end, council felt that it is not the right time.”
Durham said he has been very focused on events in the town doing well. “I am very disappointed,” he said. “Events have been a leading strategy for us to revitalize the downtown.”