Following backlash, North Brookfield cancels 4th of July celebration

NORTH BROOKFIELD, Mass. — North Brookfield’s 1st annual 4th of July celebration is now postponed.

The town’s three-member Board of Selectmen planned to defy state public health COVID-19 guidelines under the governor’s political expression protections. Plus they say they didn’t have enough cases for concern.

“On July 4 there will be five active cases in the 10 towns surrounding North Brookfield,” Selectmen Chairman Daley Kiley said at a board meeting Tuesday. “That’s why we thought it’s a relatively low risk.”

The trio even unanimously voted back in May to direct town police not to enforce Gov. Baker’s pandemic orders.

"It's our hope that most folks don't do the big large 4th of July gatherings and for the most part across the Commonwealth, they're not," said Gov. Baker. "And those are obviously in violation of many of our gathering rules. And I would hope that North Brookfield would take the same position."

Organizers say the event was going to be limited to just North Brookfield residents and they expected less than 250 people taking up 4.2 acres in the town common but they didn’t predict the word would get out.

"We have been talking about it with just the town," said Kiley.

The Board of Selectmen felt the public health risk would’ve been less than what we have seen in recent protests or on the beach. Now they’re blaming the Board of Health for sending out complaints which helped to spread the word.

“Protests and marches are freedoms of speech,” said Ethan Melad of the Board of Health. “This event is being promoted as a festival which goes against the guidelines that prohibit this from happening.

“If you let the local towns determine the risk, it’s a low risk,” said Kiley. “Now that it is out and people will be coming from all over the state that risk is now expanded exponentially.”

“The Board of Health is very happy that the Select Board has reconsidered their decision to hold a 4th of July event. It is the correct decision and the best possible way to ensure the people of North Brookfield stay safe and healthy, while maintaining the State’s progress of eliminating COVID-19. We’re looking forward to seeing a celebration happen in North Brookfield as soon as it is possible, and will be proud to assist in keeping it safe for all our town’s residents.

We want to stress, once again, that the BoH works solely in the interest of health and safety for the people of North Brookfield, and no decisions have been made for any political reason, nor have we employed any “operatives”. These claims by the Board of Selectmen are untrue, and make apparent that Board’s contempt for the work we do as well as the guidelines and regulations set by the Commonwealth.

As to the issue of Brooks Pond, the BoH has been in communication with the Pond Association and continues to work toward a solution to any overcrowding. Enforcement of our solutions was rendered impossible by the Select Board’s vote of May 19 to prevent the NB police from enforcing our orders. In addition, we have successfully worked with the East Brookfield Board of Selectmen, Playground Committee, and Board of Health to open the Town Beach at Lake Lashaway for our residents to use.

We very much appreciate the support we have received from the people of North Brookfield, and will continue to do our best to serve the community as we have been elected to do. We welcome bipartisan and interdepartmental communication as we move forward.”

—  North Brookfield Board of Health

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