4th of July celebration planned

HOUGHTON — The creator of the “All Business is Essential” campaign is planning a Fourth of July party for the community on his property in Tamarack City. 

The event will start 6 p.m., Friday, July 3. He will host the event on 10 acres of private property at the Point in Tamarack City. 

Erik Kiilunen, CEO of Neuvokas in Ahmeek, said he wanted to fill the gap created when fireworks displays in Lake Linden and Copper Harbor were canceled due to the COVID-19 crisis. 

“I just got active politically, and I hear that Fourth of July celebrations are being banned and we’ve got riots going on in the streets, and I think we’ve got to celebrate what we have,” he said. 

While the party will be thrown on private property, Kiilunen’s plans have been met with some skepticism. At Lake Linden’s Thursday village council meeting, city officials said the event could draw thousands of people to its park to watch the display, violating Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order on crowd limits. Kiilunen also spoke at a community meeting in Tamarack City, where reaction was mostly against.  

Kiilunen said he has lined up a fireworks display for the event. He is also working on details for food and live entertainment. 

“We’re going to put together an awesome display, and it’s going to be a private party,” he said. 

Under the executive order, for the Upper Peninsula, outdoor gatherings are limited to a maximum of 500 people. Kiilunen said he would instead base the crowd size on “as many as I can park sensibly and safely.” 

Through the “All Business is Essential” campaign, Kiilunen has placed billboards throughout the state attacking Michigan’s shutdown. He has also traveled to meet others who have protested the restrictions, such as Owosso barber Karl Manke, who made news for cutting hair during the pandemic in violation of the governor’s order closing salons. Manke’s license was restored last week after the state suspended it in May. 

Kiilunen questioned Whitmer’s assertions that the restrictions had saved lives, saying it was impossible to prove a counterfactual. A study released by Imperial College London and Oxford University earlier this month said states with more heightened restrictions had been more successful in halting the spread of COVID-19. While it did not list a number of deaths prevented, a researcher with the study said tens of thousands of deaths may have been prevented in Michigan. 

However, Kiilunen said, the effect on society from lost jobs and the depressive effects of isolation is more harmful. 

“I’ve done the math on it,” he said. “I scratch my mind and I wonder why we’ve shut down so much. If we have 22% unemployment, and we have a pandemic, how will we have the resources to fight this?”

Kiilunen said he has not heard from Whitmer or Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office about the plans. He said Whitmer is welcome to attend the event. 

“I’d love to grab the mike and have a very civil debate,” he said. “I have my data, and I still haven’t seen hers.”

Kiilunen said he would not be providing PPE or requiring social distancing, but that people were welcome to do so. If they want, they can watch the fireworks display from their cars, he said. 

“Those that want to socially distance, I’ll give them all the respect I can,” he said. “If they want to wear a mask, they can. I’m not trying to put salt in wounds.”

Kiilunen said it will be a family-oriented event people to leave any alcohol at home. 

“We can show up, we can be peaceable, we can celebrate our country,” he said. “Let’s do a really nice event that brings the community together and starts healing.”

People who wish to volunteer to help can contact Kiilunen at 906-369-3355.


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