Patriotism is on display as crowds watch the opening flag procession during the 2018 Martinez Fourth of July Parade. The city has decided to cancel this year's event because of COVID-19 concerns, joining many Bay Area cities that have made similar moves. (Photo by Sam Richards/Bay City News Foundation)

With little hope of public gatherings being allowed by July, the Martinez City Council has become the most recent Bay Area city to cancel its Fourth of July celebrations, voting Wednesday night to suspend the popular fireworks show and annual Independence Day parade.

By a 5-0 vote, council members gave City Manager Eric Figueroa permission to cancel the events. Deputy City Manager Michael Chandler said a cancellation is all but certain, and that it would take some surprising and drastic changes, like county health officers’ relaxing of social distancing rules, to allow the events to proceed.

Health officers in Contra Costa County and from other Bay Area counties have said they do not expect large public gatherings to be allowed in the foreseeable future, and likely not the rest of 2020.

Martinez officials feared their parade could have attracted larger crowds than usual, given the number of other communities canceling similar events.

Martinez’s parade is an old-fashioned procession of local civic groups, youth sports teams, elected officials in convertibles, first responders and clubs that brings thousands of spectators to Main Street downtown on the morning of July 4. The fireworks show draws several thousand people to the Radke Martinez Regional Shoreline each year.

“It just kills me not to have them this year, but too many people would be at the marina, crowded in the dark,” Councilwoman Debbie McKillop said. “We can’t risk the public’s safety.”

Martinez officials had a financial incentive to cancel soon. The city’s contract with Sacramento-based Pyro Spectaculars, which puts on the fireworks display for the city, allowed it to recover $1,336 of the $9,386 deposit it paid in February if city officials canceled before June 4. The original contract called for the city to pay Pyro Spectaculars $16,100 to put on the show.

Councilman Mark Ross said that, as one of the few area cities that hadn’t canceled festivities, Martinez could have been a magnet for people who may have otherwise gone to another city’s fireworks event, packing even more people into the Martinez show.

Martinez is not the first Bay Area city to cancel its Fourth of July festivities because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orinda, which hosts one of Contra Costa County’s largest holiday parades, has canceled the parade and surrounding activities this year. Pleasant Hill canceled the large Independence Day parade that city hosts, along with its post-parade celebration. El Cerrito has canceled its July 4 celebration, a victim of both the COVID-19 pandemic and the city’s budget problems.

Antioch, Vallejo and Novato, among other cities, have already canceled Independence Day celebrations over coronavirus-related restrictions.

The Danville 2020 Kiwanis 4th of July Parade, which draws more than 30,000 spectators each year and is one of the largest such parades in the Bay Area, has not yet been canceled. According to the Kiwanis Club of San Ramon Valley, which puts it on, “it is unclear at this time” whether the parade will happen, and that updated information is expected by mid-May.

Oakley, which traditionally holds its annual Cityhood Celebration and fireworks show the first Saturday in July, has not yet announced its plans for this year’s event.