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HOT SPRINGS -- The annual July Fourth fundraiser for the Friends of Hot Springs National Park has been canceled due to the covid-19 pandemic and will be replaced this year with a virtual pet costume contest.

For the past two years, the Friends of Hot Springs National Park has held the Red, White & You Picnic In The Park on July Fourth, but had to cancel this year because of the ongoing pandemic, Roxanne Butterfield, president of the Friends, told The Sentinel-Record.

"This would have been our third year. We've had such a good event," Butterfield said, noting money raised at the fundraiser has been used to help the park, "specifically for the Maurice (Bath House)."

The Maurice Bath House is the final remaining structure on Bathhouse Row yet to be restored either by the National Park Service or a private developer.

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Butterfield said the decision to cancel the event was made while they were still in the planning stage.

"We were adding a patriotic pet contest," she said, and the Friends decided to continue with the idea.

The inaugural Patriotic Pet Contest will "celebrate our national Independence Day. Due to the current restrictions and guidelines for public events, this year's event will be a virtual event held on social media," the Friends said in a news release.

The rules for the contest are that the pet must be wearing red, white and blue, Butterfield said, and any pet can be entered into the contest.

"Four-legged, two-legged, no legged, we don't care," she said.

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