As the Upper Arlington community waits to see how the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic will affect its signature July 4 celebration, the group behind the event already has shuffled other annual traditions and is working to spread goodwill to residents and businesses.
As of last week, members of the Upper Arlington Civic Association – organizers of the community’s annual July Fourth Parade and Party in the Park – could not say if this year’s event will take place.
Like everyone else in Ohio, UACA leaders were looking for the latest direction from Gov. Mike DeWine and state public health officials to see when the state might be reopened and if large gatherings would be permitted.
“We are currently working with the city’s parks and recreation department and taking state guidance into consideration, but a determination has not been made,” UACA secretary Georgia Kaltenbach said April 22. “As we already know, this is not typical, and I don’t think the Fourth of July event would be typical at this point, if we are able to have it.
“We’re still trying to understand what we can do to keep the population safe while not forgoing what’s probably the most popular event in the city.”
The UACA’s website, uaca.org, still has a ticker counting down to July 4, but the 2020 parade theme and grand marshal haven’t been announced.
Those annual rites were to take place as they always do, at the UACA’s float-builders information session.
However, this year’s event, which was scheduled for April 15, had to be canceled.
Although the July 4 celebration hangs in the balance, several other UACA annual traditions already have been upended by the pandemic.
The annual Easter Egg Hunt & Bunny Trail, a tradition since 1972, was canceled April 4.
The Golden Apple awards, the UACA’s yearly recognition of excellence among local teachers, school staff and administrators, could not be held the last week of March, as planned.
Kaltenbach said UACA leaders are working to provide an alternative to honor this year’s Golden Apple Award winners, and the annual Memorial Day Run has been rescheduled to Veterans Day weekend.
“We plan to move our 49th annual 5-mile run to the weekend of Nov. 7-8 and will continue to use the event to honor veterans,” UACA president Brent Theaker said in an April 21 newsletter. “We will provide registration details soon.
“If you already registered, your fees will carry over to the event this fall.”
Another annual event that could be rescheduled is the Walk, which had been slated for April 25 to May 3. During that time, UACA members and volunteers canvass the entire community, seeking memberships by way of donations that support all the organization’s events.
“We are looking into options to have a virtual Walk, but at present, we are waiting to see how the next few months play out,” Kaltenbach said.
In addition to UACA members, the cancellation and postponement of events has disappointed residents.
Amanda Zimmerman and she and her husband, Aaron, have taken their sons, Clayton, 10, and Leo, 7, to the Easter Egg Hunt since they were infants.
“It’s always a fun event,” Zimmerman said. “All of our neighbors are there ,and it’s such a community-builder. We did a couple of our own egg hunts in our own yard, but it’s just not the same.”
Zimmerman said she, her friends and neighbors all hope the July 4 celebration can be salvaged. For years, she said, her neighborhood around Greensview Elementary School has built a float for the parade, and that work led to side projects for their children, who began packing lunches and raising money for families in need throughout central Ohio.
“It has brought our neighborhood together,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to put into words.”
Still trying to help
Though the situation around the pandemic is a serious threat to public safety and has doused the UACA’s social and philanthropic schedule, organization leaders have taken steps to try to spread positivity.
The group’s “Bear Keepers” have taken the giant, inflatable Golden Bear into the community “to show support and bring cheer to our community,” Theaker said.
“It made stops at Old Bag of Nails, Crimson Cup, Fire Station 72 and the Memorial Walk outside of Jones Middle School,” he said. “We hope you enjoyed seeing the bunny-eared bear.”
Taking it a step farther, the UACA has sought to help residents and local businesses, including those on the front lines of the pandemic.
On April 14, the group collaborated with Caffe DaVinci to provide dinners for health-care professionals and their families.
On April 23, they teamed with Dewey’s Pizza in Grandview Heights to provide 20 large pizzas to supermarket employees.
A future event is being planned to provide food to local police and firefighters.
Additionally, Michael Olshove, the UACA’s Easter Egg Hunt & Bunny Trail second-year director, was able to provide a ray of sunshine to longtime Tremont Center mainstay Chef-O-Nette Restaurant.
Originally, Olshove planned to use roughly $800 in surplus budget funds from the canceled Easter event to provide free meals from Chef-O-Nette to community members.
However, only two meals were provided due to a very light response, so Olshove gave the money to Chef-O-Nette owner Harlan Howard.
“We had agreed to spread 80 meals out over three days, but we just didn’t get a response,” Howard said. “When I told Michael, he said, ‘Keep it.’ ”
Howard said the donation was “heartwarming” and came at a time when his business, like many in Upper Arlington and beyond, is struggling.
He said although he is using only a fraction of the water, gas and electricity he typically does, his bills still are roughly two-thirds of the costs they usually are. He said his rent is due, pandemic or not.
“That was an absolute shot in the arm,” Howard said. “We’re still under water, no question. But every day, I come in and I keep working.
“It’s overwhelming, the generosity.”