Large gatherings are primarily canceled, and big fireworks shows are a no-go in many places. During a year when the Fourth of July will look a lot different than in the past — no Arts in the Park and no downtown parade — Brainerd Community Action wants everyone to remember the little things.

“We’re trying to make sure we’re focusing on what we can do,” Community Action Executive Director and Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux said Monday, June 29. “And that does have limitations, and limitations aren’t necessarily set by us, but we’re trying to work within them. Our focus is on what we can do, and that’s 100% the goal this year.”

What families can do is spend time together doing festive arts and crafts projects and baking fun holiday treats. That’s why Badeaux and his staffers at Community Action scoured the internet for as many Fourth of July themed activities as they could find. They then went a step further to test out various crafting projects and create step-by-step tutorials available on the Brainerd Community Action Facebook page. Each post is accompanied with #BrainerdLittleThings, to remind everyone what they still have and are still able to do amid a global pandemic.

“I think that this year, with everything that's happened, and with all this stuff just kind of slowly being postponed or canceled, the one bright side of it has been that families are kind of coming together and groups of friends are kind of rekindling relationships,” Badeaux said. “And I think it's a fun time to look at the smaller stuff in life, even though it's a really stressful time for everybody.”

Instead of gearing up for a parade, grab some popsicle sticks and red, white and blue paint and spend some time making holiday decorations with the family. Instead of leaving extra early to guarantee a prime fireworks viewing spot on the hill outside Brainerd High School, grab a Fourth of July cookie decorating kit from Knotty Pine Bakery and create festive, edible art.

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Tutorials for holiday baking projects are available on the Brainerd Community Action Facebook page, as part of the organization's "Little Things" campaign this Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Brainerd Community Action
Tutorials for holiday baking projects are available on the Brainerd Community Action Facebook page, as part of the organization's "Little Things" campaign this Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Brainerd Community Action

“We’re trying to put up as many as we can throw up this week,” Badeaux said of the activity suggestions. “We’ve got a couple extra fun ones. I’ve got a couple of people, other businesses, that are still looking to post some stuff as well, and we’re just going to try and keep ramping it up right up to the Fourth of July, and hopefully everybody will have all the ideas they need so they they’re not scrambling to the store on the Fourth. We want people to be able to have some fun with it.”

To elevate the fun, Community Action partnered with local businesses to promote their holiday offerings as well. Along with cookie decorating kits from the Knotty Pine Bakery, Community Action’s Facebook page includes information about holiday gnome do-it-yourself kits from Minnesota Makerspace, tie-dye bandana tutorials for pets from Ashley Storm Pet Sitting, and even a buy one, get one free ice cream cone promotion at Fancy Pants Chocolates.

“That’s important in anything that we do with Community Action. We want to try and connect people,” Badeaux said. “... It’s not just people living in an area, it’s people that are creating a community, and you need these little connections in order to do that, and I think it makes it a fun way to go visit some of these shops if you can.”

Tutorials for holiday craft projects are available on the Brainerd Community Action Facebook page, as part of the organization's "Little Things" campaign this Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Brainerd Community Action
Tutorials for holiday craft projects are available on the Brainerd Community Action Facebook page, as part of the organization's "Little Things" campaign this Fourth of July. Photo courtesy of Brainerd Community Action

Community Action fireworks

Fireworks are still a go in Brainerd, with both cities of Brainerd and Baxter allocating funds for the event.

But there won’t be a crowd of people on the hill outside Brainerd High School to watch the show this year. Instead, fireworks-goers are encouraged to stay in their cars and watch the show from afar.

The change is due not only to social distancing guidelines to help slow the spread of COVID-19, but also to ongoing construction at the high school.

“I think people really need to understand right now, with the construction at the high school, it’s not safe for people to be back there,” Badeaux said.

Those who have traditionally viewed the fireworks from locations other than the high school bowl should have no problem seeing them again this year, Badeaux assured the community. The farther away from the center of town cars are, likely the harder it will be to see the fireworks, but Badeaux said they’ll be shot up as high as possible, and there won’t be any fireworks lower to the ground.

“I think most people can understand that we need to be as safe as possible this year, and things are going to look a little different, but it’s still important to celebrate,” he said, “and it’s still important to shoot off the fireworks and make sure that we’re still having a fun Fourth of July.”

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.