BRANDON — Those who missed seeing fireworks in July might have something better in store for them next weekend.
Celebrate Brandon weekend will take place Sept. 25-26, said Bernie Carr, president of the Brandon Area Chamber of Commerce.
The celebration was supposed to happen in the spring and mark the essential completion of the Segment Six project, a $28 million, two-year overhaul of Route 7 through the middle of town. But just as Brandon was looking forward to a return to normalcy, the COVID-19 pandemic upended everything.
Carr said at the time no one knew how the pandemic would play out, and while uncertainty remains, Vermont has been able to boast some of the lowest infection rates and deaths in the country.
“The bottom line is, we’re celebrating the fact that Brandon is complete and reopened to business, and we have a lot to offer people,” said Carr.
Along with Celebrate Brandon being put off, the annual fireworks show put on by the Brandon Independence Day Committee was moved as well.
“When it looked as though we would have to cancel the fireworks, we agreed to partner with the Chamber and move them to the same weekend,” said Bill Moore, chairman of the committee and Town of Brandon recreation director. “The cool thing about this is, it’s making lemonade out of these lemons that have been given to us.
“The thought of having to cancel the fireworks outright was, we just didn’t want to do that, and this celebration offered an opportunity for us to not only have the fireworks around some kind of a celebration but also try another location,” he said.
The fireworks will launch from downtown Brandon instead of the outskirts of town, where people would gather by the hundreds at Park Village to see them. Northstar Fireworks, of East Montpelier, has been contracted to do the show and a permit was signed by the Brandon Fire Department, said Moore.
He said people will be able to watch the fireworks from anywhere downtown, be it a park or their own porch, making COVID-19 social distancing recommendations much easier and more effective.
The show will begin at 8 p.m. Sept. 25.
“This will be the first time we’ll be shooting them off in the heart of the downtown instead of on the outside of town,” said Moore.
During the day, there will be things to do and see in Brandon, according to Carr. He said the Chamber and the Downtown Brandon Alliance have been busy planning to show off the new Brandon.
“We have 4 or 5 miles of brand-new sidewalks, new treescapes, parking and great handicap accessibility,” he said. “We’re literally going from one end of the project to the other and having activities, window displays, merchant sales, sidewalk sales, a lot of stuff people can walk to.”
While the pandemic has been tough on Brandon, especially its restaurants, the summer tourist presence appears better than expected, said Carr.
“I’ve had a lot of people from everywhere, Washington, D.C., (New) Jersey, Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts. I think people look at the map and say where’s the safest place we can go, and that’s Vermont,” he said.
Vermont has reported low rates of COVID-19 infection and deaths throughout the pandemic.
Carr said the summer Brandon has seen is giving him some hope for the nearing foliage season. Early predictions were alarming, he said, but Vermont had handled the pandemic well and tourists are taking note.
He said the Celebrate Brandon event is taking all COVID-19 precautions it can, not wanting the low coronavirus numbers to change direction.