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‘Famous for the 4th’: How a Small Town Celebrated Independence Day in a Pandemic

Rich Hill Marked a Longstanding Tradition at a Distance

Welcome sign in Rich Hill, Missouri.
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RICH HILL, Mo. — Taking the exit to Rich Hill after heading south on Interstate 49, it’s impossible to miss the sign. “Welcome to Rich Hill – Famous For The 4th” in big red and blue letters looms over anyone entering the town about an hour south of Kansas City.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the country there were worries this year the town wouldn’t be able to live up to its reputation.

In the past, Rich Hill enthusiastically welcomed people from far flung places to enjoy the car show, carnival, pie auction, concert and fireworks. This year Natalie Platt, president of the Rich Hill Fourth of July celebration committee, struggled with mixed emotions.

“For years we’ve been trying to get people to come into town,” she said. “This is the year where I kind of hope they don’t.”

Two weeks before Independence Day, the committee decided to move forward with the celebration in a limited capacity.

The carnival was spread out to create more space for people to move around, signs were put up encouraging people to maintain six feet of social distance, and hand sanitizer was readily available on all carnival rides. 

The committee also had to cancel a large outdoor concert, which would have been headlined by Easton Corbin, a country artist with nearly 1.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify.

Towns closer to Kansas City such as Leawood, Lee’s Summit and Liberty canceled their celebrations and fireworks. Other towns in western Missouri like Marshall and Harrisonville restricted their celebrations to a fireworks display only.

Bates County, where Rich Hill is located, has had just 12 positive cases of COVID-19, with one fatality.

Watch the attached video to see how people celebrated in Rich Hill. Masks were few and far between.

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