Grandview's Ox Roast, if held, will be trimmed to bare bones
If the Bobcat Boosters' Ox Roast is the filet mignon of Grandview Heights festivals, this year's event will be more like a thin slice of lunch meat -- if it happens at all.
A final decision on whether the Ox Roast will be held in 2020 is not expected to be made until August.
"It's going to be a scaled-down version, if we can have it at all," said Robert Sterneker, this year's "head ox" and chairman of the annual festival.
The Boosters club already has decided that most elements of the three-day festival -- typically held in early September at Pierce Field -- cannot be offered because of the impracticality of social distancing and other safety protocols related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, he said.
"We won't be able to have rides, games, bands or beer sales," Sterneker said. "There just doesn't seem any way we could have those things and still maintain the proper social distancing."
The group's tentative plan is to offer sales of the fest's signature beef Saturday, Sept. 12 -- the festival's scheduled final day -- at Pierce Field, he said.
"This is all preliminary," Sterneker said. "We haven't finalized any plan and any plan would have to be approved by the city.
"What we're thinking about is that we could offer a box lunch or dinner people could pre-order and come to pick up."
The first two days of the festival will be canceled in any case, Sterneker said.
"We still would like to have the pit-lighting ceremony on Friday night, but again, things are so ever-changing with the coronavirus that we just don't know if we'll be able to do that," he said.
"The marching band traditionally leads a procession to Pierce Field, but we don't know if we're even going to have a marching band this year. We don't know yet how we would be able to maintain safe social distancing for a pit-lighting ceremony."
Even the idea of selling food Sept. 12 could prove unworkable if the coronavirus situation doesn't improve over the next two months, Sterneker said.
The scaling back and potential cancellation of the Ox Roast "is a real hit, for me personally and the community as a whole," Grandview Heights Mayor Greta Kearns said.
"It's one of my favorite events and the Ox Roast is such a unique, long-standing event in the community," she said. "It's an iconic part of summer."
The beer tent, rides, games and other Ox Roast activities cultivate social gathering, so it would be difficult to take steps to ensure that people wouldn't congregate, Kearns said.
The mayor, however, was optimistic about the idea of beef being sold Sept. 12.
"The possibility of being able to have a drive-thru pick-up of beef at the window could work, and if the Boosters want to pursue that option, the city would be on board with it," she said.
Each year, the Boosters prepare about 2,000 pounds of beef for sales on the fest's final day. The pit-lighting ceremony takes place after the home football game or after players, band members and cheerleaders return from an away game. Boosters stay overnight tending the fire and cooking the beef.
The beef sales, along with beer sales, make up a bulk of the proceeds the Boosters earn from the Ox Roast, Sterneker said.
The Boosters' mission is to support programs and activities that benefit students attending Grandview Heights Schools.
"It's not just athletics that we support," Sterneker said. "We've also made contributions to support the band and musical programs and the FIRST Robotics program."
The likely reduction, if not cancellation, of the Ox Roast may not have as big of an impact on the Boosters mission as it could, he said.
If the beef sale goes on as scheduled Sept. 12, "we'll be able to bring in some money if people come out and support us," Sterneker said.
A downsized version of the Ox Roast also would reduce the overhead costs of putting on the festival, he said.
Plus, there may not be as many programs for the Boosters to support this school year if sports, marching band and other activities are canceled or scaled back.
The annual fund drive and golf-cart raffle and the mulch sale held earlier this year were successful, Sterneker said.