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Independence Day 2020 in Bend looks a wee bit different

Fireworks in Bend over Pilot Butte

Face masks. Social distancing. Cancelled concerts and a summer skewed by tweaked travel plans. The world at large looks different these days, and that’s especially true as we ponder what 4th of July 2020 will be like in Bend, Oregon.

Bend beer crux

Bend beer is a tasty way to celebrate July 4th.

While plenty is changing, some things stay the same: Bend’s small-town spirit and passion for celebrating this peak summer holiday are chief among them.

Details are still evolving, but here’s what we know right now about celebrating 4th of July in Bend amid this global pandemic.


What’s up with the Pet Parade?

Let me rip off the Bandaid quickly and tell you the traditional Downtown Pet Parade isn’t happening. Not the way you’ve experienced before (though for the record, this isn’t the first time in its 88-year history it’s been cancelled. WWII nixed things in 1943, and wouldn’t you rather face a pandemic than a world war?)

One thing that wasn’t an option in 1943 is a televised, virtual parade. Anyone who wants to participate can submit a pet video of 60 seconds or less. The virtual parade will be broadcast on local stations at four different times, and you can learn more here. The best part about a virtual parade is that animals who typically aren’t allowed will be featured in all their furred or finned glory. Guinea pigs, chickens, cats, you name it—all are encouraged to be part of the celebration. Be sure to have your submission in by June 27. 


What about the Old Fashioned Festival?

Sorry, social distancing regulations and limits on crowd sizes make this a no-go, too. But to make up for it, Bend Park & Recreation will be posting a variety of ideas for Play at Home activities. While it’s not the same as gorging on corndogs and challenging sweaty strangers to a sack race, you’re a lot less likely to barf. Small victories?


4th of July Fireworks on Pilot Butte

Don’t fret, the fireworks are still happening in Bend.

The fireworks must go on!

We’re fielding lots of inquiries about 4th of July fireworks, so I’m happy to have good news on this front. Not only will there be a traditional fireworks display launched from the summit of Pilot Butte, but new sponsorship from a group of local car dealerships is resulting in a much bigger budget and a grander display than ever before.

As always, fireworks begin at 10 p.m. on July 4. While the park east of the Butte is closed to promote social distancing, you can see the show from just about anyplace in town with a view of Pilot Butte. Scope out this parks list for ideas, and do keep in mind that some spots may be closed to prevent large crowds from forming and breaking social distancing rules. To be safe, it’s wise to pick several spots and visit them well before the show starts to see which one makes the best option.


What else is open?

This one’s tough to answer because it changes day to day, and varies from place to place. If there’s a shop you want to visit or a restaurant you’re hoping to dine at, your best bet is to call ahead to find out their situation. Many dining establishments that don’t normally take reservations are having to do so now to accommodate the abundance of guests wanting to eat there.

Tent camping dog

You can still camp, but check first to be sure your favorite campground is open.

Our COVID page has a pretty solid roundup of what’s open and what’s not, in general terms. 

While many bars, restaurants, and shops are open, do keep in mind they’ll have strict social distancing guidelines in place. Ditto that for tour operators and attractions like axe throwing bars and trampoline parks, so prepare for an experience that looks different than you remember. The Bend Ale Trail, for example, has a whole new set of rules that make social distancing easier (and also make it easier to earn prizes, so yay!)


What about camping and hiking?

RV parks are open, so you’re golden if that’s your mode of transport. Do keep in mind that RVing is surging in popularity, so you’ll definitely want reservations.

As of June 11, National Forest day use areas are open, including picnic areas, boat ramps, and trailheads. Most sites will not have services like garbage and clean restrooms available, so be prepared to remove your own waste and bring water. As far as camping goes, USFS campgrounds are opening gradually and with limited facilities. Go here to find the status of your favorite spot.

Crater Lake National Park is also open, though visitors are encouraged to pay entrance fees online ahead of the visit.

BLM trailheads are open, and campgrounds have been reopening on a case-by-case basis. Their Facebook page is a good place to watch for updates.

Oregon State Parks are opening on a rolling basis, as are their campgrounds. Here’s a good place to check what’s open and what’s not.

And again, keep an eye on our COVID page for updates and info in this ever-evolving situation.


Can I float the river?

Yes, but there will be no river shuttle and no on-site tube rentals. This means you’ll need to bring your own tube from home. Please, please, for the love of all that’s holy, do not pile punctured tubes at the exit point and forget about them. Without an established tube rental system, we’re braced for an increase in garbage and flattened floaties. Please do your part by packing home any trash you create. If possible, be sure you’re purchasing the toughest tubes you can find (I’ve had good luck with the ones at Costco). For more details on safely floating the river or using any Bend Park & Recreation facilities like skate parks, volleyball courts, and playgrounds, go here.

Floating the Deschutes River in Bend

Floating the river is still allowed, but bring your own tube and keep six feet of distance from anyone not in your immediate family.


A few more FAQs…

There’s a lot of confusion about what is and isn’t allowed right now. Again, I’ll refer you to our COVID page as your best, most frequently-updated source of info.

Can I visit Bend from another city in Oregon?

With Deschutes County entering phase 2 on June 6, non-essential travel to Bend became allowable once again. But that doesn’t mean we’re opening the floodgates in one big free-for-all. To quote from this page on the Deschutes County site, “Increased travel is allowed throughout Oregon, though staying local is still recommended to prevent overloading county health systems.” We’re still in the midst of a pandemic, so if you are choosing to come, please be cautious and respectful. Wear your mask in public and practice social distancing. Wash your hands like crazy, and don’t come if you have a fever or any COVID symptoms.

What about coming from out of state?

While there’s no law currently preventing this, please think very, very carefully before pulling the trigger on an out-of-state trip. Deschutes County has done a solid job keeping our COVID cases in check, but all it’ll take to wreck that is a car full of asymptomatic virus carriers spreading germs throughout restaurants, bars, and shops. Please consider sticking closer to your own state and planning your own “Never Have I Ever” adventures like we’ve been urging Bend locals to do. Bend will be here for you next summer. Promise.

Any other advice?

Yep, and this is quite possibly the most important thing I can tell you: Don’t be a jerk.

If the hiking trail you want to visit is full, don’t invent your own parking spot and plow on ahead. Have a backup plan, and another backup plan. Have four or five backup plans. It’s actually pretty easy, since Bend has no shortage of fabulous hikes. Grab a great hiking guide if you need ideas. We sell several in the Visitor Center, which is tentatively scheduled to reopen on June 26 with limited hours of 10-4 daily, and limited services.

If a restaurant can’t seat you because regulations limit the number of tables available, don’t berate the server. They’re just doing their jobs. Be kind, be polite, and respect the laws and rules that are in place to keep us all safe.

Above all, remember that we’re all in this together. Be kind to one another, guys. It’s the only way we’ll get through this.

The Bend Adventure Journal

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