Grassroots effort in Libby to celebrate Independence Day picking up steam

| June 16, 2020 8:43 AM

A growing group of volunteers is racing to put together a Fourth of July celebration in Libby after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of many area events, including the popular Independence Day extravaganza in nearby Troy.

Kenny Rayome unveiled the idea before the Lincoln County Board of Commissioners earlier this month while asking for permission to use J. Neils Memorial Park for a fireworks display July 4.

Along with the pyrotechnics show, Rayome told the board he and members of the Libby Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1548 were coordinating to set up a beer tent, organize a corn hole tournament and host a tug-of-war competition. A parade also is being planned to run from the Libby Chamber of Commerce building. It will snake through town so as to spread spectators out, Rayome said.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the community. I don’t think this opportunity should be lost to celebrate our nation,” he told commissioners.

Speaking by phone last week, Rayome said the idea came about during a conversation with a fellow veteran. Rayome said he previously served as a submariner in the U.S. Navy.

“Well, I’m just pretty patriotic myself, being a veteran, and it just started with another gentleman and I talking, and we said we should start putting something together,” Rayome recalled. “We started about a week before I went to the commissioners. Now we’re getting somewhat organized.”

The itinerary of events has since expanded. A Facebook page dedicated to the event lists a patriotic fun run, live music and Rayome is in talks with local gear heads about putting on a car show.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for the firework show and the associated insurance costs. Rayome is hopeful the community will pitch in to help.

“We’re trying to keep this low cost. We’re going to rely on the goodhearted nature of people and if they can support, they will,” he said. “Every little bit helps.”

Entry fees for several of the events will go toward local charities. Spectators will have other opportunities to give to local groups and causes throughout the spectacle, Rayome said.

The Fourth of July festivities will also serve as an opportunity to help out the region’s charitable organizations given how many spring fundraisers were cancelled for the pandemic, he said.

“We don’t cancel America’s birthday,” Rayome said. “It has to be done, especially given the way of the world right now. People have to remember their patriotism and the community has to remember that we’re here for each other.”

While the board of commissioners offered verbal support for the event, Rayome still needs to coordinate with the county health department. Director Kathi Hooper and Public Health Manager Jennifer McCully were both in attendance when he presented the idea to commissioners. The pair asked Rayome to present a proposal for how he planned to meet the requirements of the second phase of Gov. Steve Bullock’s reopening of the state.

Montana, like other states, saw strict regulations placed on public gatherings as the COVID-19 pandemic worsened.

Bullock began easing the rules in May. Although the state now permits most businesses to operate and public gatherings to exceed 50 people, the directive for Phase Two requires local health officials to enforce the remaining rules, which include maintaining proper social distancing.

“They were instructed to get with us for a plan and they have not yet done that,” Hooper told the board. “It is sounding like it is quite a large event. We have just not received their plan yet. They are running out of time.”

The GoFundMe page for Kenny Rayome’s project can be found at: www.gofundme.com/f/liberty-on-parade-in-libby.