The coronavirus won’t stop Houston’s annual Freedom Over Texas Fourth of July celebration from happening, but this year’s event will be a remote, socially-distanced affair.
In a Monday morning press conference, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced that the show would go on—pyrotechnics, music and all—just without any in-person spectators.
“Watch it on television, in your backyard, on a balcony...in your cars, on the hood...the fireworks will go up, and the people will be able to see them on July 4th,” Turner said.
Later on Monday, the producers of Freedom Over Texas announced an additional slate of musicians who will perform in addition to the Houston Symphony. Chief among them is Texas country star Pat Green, who will headline the Independence Day event’s grand finale.
Other artists set to take the stage are Houston rap icons Bun B and Trae Tha Truth, as well as mariachi group Mariachi Imperial De America and the local Norteño band Los Luzeros De Rioverde.
Rounding out the night’s performances will be a series of “virtual appearances” from acts like La Mafia, the Grammy-winning Latin group from Houston, and the country-music stylings of Lyle Lovett, Josh Turner, and Hunter Hayes.
The annual event usually draws thousands of spectators to Eleanor Tinsley Park to enjoy musical performances, family-friendly activities and a fireworks display in honor of Independence Day. This year’s version will do away with the on-site events open to the public, but will feature “the first socially distanced performance” of the Houston Symphony, Turner said, in addition to a 15-minute fireworks finale, all of which will be livestreamed online and televised by local TV news station ABC13.
Turner explained that it “wasn’t an easy decision” to settle on a non-public, remote version of the annual event, but due to the fact that COVID-19 diagnoses are “increasing every day” in the Houston area, the city and the event’s corporate sponsors wanted to err on the side of safety and public health. He also noted that the event broadcast would feature plenty of reminders from his “MASK UP!” grassroots public health campaign “to remind people that the pandemic isn’t over.”
In Monday’s news conference, Turner thanked the event’s corporate sponsors, including new title sponsor Shell, for their support in planning this year’s heavily modified event.
“Even though we are making these variations,” Turner said, “...I’m just as excited about this Fourth of July celebration as I’ve ever been.”