As large July Fourth events return, vendors welcome boost to business

In the days leading up to the July Fourth holiday, vendors like Perry Jordan, owner of the Tasty Unicorn ice cream truck in Kansas City, were gearing up for a big weekend of festivals.

“If we can see (15,000) to 20,000 people even there this weekend, I mean, it’s gonna be record setting for us, probably for our biggest event,” said Jordan, whose truck is at the Stars and Stripes Picnic at the National WWI Museum in Kansas City this weekend.

It’s a different scene from last summer, when as many as 80% of Independence Day celebrations were shut down due to COVID-19. The vendors and food trucks set up to cater to these events are ready to start serving customers eager to attend events once more.

“Post pandemic, man, things have kind of gone off hook again,” said John Reider, the owner of Bubble Bus in St. Louis. “It’s wonderful. The phone’s ringing like crazy emails are coming in. We’re just as busy as we can be.”

Bubble Bus provides bubble machines to events, festivals and high school dances. Reider said his event business was heavily impacted last year by COVID-19, going from 500 events in 2019 to about two dozen in 2020.

“We were gearing up for last year to be like even better than 2019,” Reider said, “and then COVID hit.”

As vaccinations increase across the state, Reider said his business is booming. His truck is attending St. Charles’ Riverfest this weekend.

St. Charles prepared for Riverfest ahead of July Fourth weekend. | Emily Hood/Missouri Business Alert

In St. Charles and elsewhere, Americans appear ready to celebrate this holiday weekend. A recent WalletHub survey showed 48 million people in the U.S. planned to travel over 50 miles this weekend, and more than a third of Americans planned to spend more money this July Fourth than they did last year.

Trucks like the Barley and Vine drink truck, based in St. Louis, have made changes to their menu to propel demand even further. Mark Schmitz, Barley and Vine’s co-owner, said business has been picking up since he bought the truck in February with his wife, Jaclyn. The truck is attending events in O’Fallon for Independence Day. The Schmitzes upgraded their menu to include more drink options outside of beer and wine, and they expect to see demand continue in the future.

“The public events seem to be getting bigger and bigger each time we go out,” Mark Schmitz said. “More and more people are coming out.”.

Vendors are expecting to see lots of events through the end of 2021 as COVID-19 cases have dropped more than 80% since they peaked in the state last fall. Reider said Bubble Bus has holiday festivities scheduled well beyond July Fourth, booking events into the fall and even some at Christmas this year.

“The crystal ball is kind of telling us that events are not going away anytime soon,” Reider said.

Decorations adorn buildings in St. Charles ahead of July Fourth celebrations. Vendors catering to the city’s Riverfest celebration said they expect brisk business. | Emily Hood/Missouri Business Alert

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