Community events starting to make a comeback in Worthington
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench into a lot of community activities around Worthington.
But with the level of vaccinations increasing and Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement that individuals who are vaccinated may forgo wearing masks beginning June 2, community events are starting to make a comeback.
“They’ve been well-received,” Worthington Partnership executive director Annina Parini said. “I think people are just happy to get out of their house and have something to do.”
The Worthington Partnership canceled or altered its main events as a response to the pandemic.
The Worthington Farmers Market carried on in a limited capacity in 2020 with a pre-order, drive-thru pick-up model in the early months of the pandemic prior to moving toward a controlled walk-up event in a parking lot. The Partnership’s First Wednesdays events also were called off, with no plans to bring them back.
But First Wednesdays have been reimagined going forward as Sunday Fundays – a daylong-themed DORA event taking place in Old Worthington each month.
“The Wednesday-themed events were pretty condensed in three hours, which didn’t work well with the pandemic and social distancing, inviting a bunch of people into a small area in a short timeframe,” Parini said. “Having all day Sunday from noon to 6 (p.m.) seemed to be a better plan for encouraging the community to gather."
The latest themed event – called Fiesta! – took place May 2, and additional events are being planned moving forward through November. The next Sunday Funday, Rainbow Love, is scheduled for June 13.
According to Parini, "each merchant in the historic district will adopt the theme to their own business. We build the framework; they flesh it out with their own specials, sales and activities."
Picnic with the Partnership, an event where a portion of High Street is closed to allow for live music, dining and promotion of small businesses, also was canceled last year. But Parini said the Partnership is looking at a date in early to fall to bring it back.
The Worthington Parks and Recreation Department also scaled back events significantly throughout 2020, either canceling events or offering them in limited form.
But city-sponsored events are making a comeback, too.
The Concerts on the Green series – a summer concert series that takes place at Village Green Park, will return June 6 and feature artist Kyle Eldridge.
Events at the Worthington Community Center, such as the Summer Day Camp, sports leagues and other events, are slated to return after being canceled or limited last year.
Meanwhile, this year’s Memorial Day parade, which is sponsored by American Legion Leasure-Blackston Post 239 and was canceled last year in lieu of a smaller ceremony, will resume this year but in a limited capacity.
Parks and recreation director Darren Hurley said he expects a healthy turnout to events going forward, but it’s still too early to say whether attendance will reach pre-COVID-19 levels.
“It’s going to be interesting," he said. "I think you could make an argument people are anxious to get out and we could see some bigger crowds. But I also think there is still some uneasiness.
“I think you could look at it either way. My guess is it’ll be somewhere in the middle where we’ll have good crowds, but it won’t be overcrowded or packed. I think we’ll see people who are vaccinated and comfortable coming out in big numbers.”
Parini said staging events and bringing them back incrementally – in adherence to health guidelines – has been a challenge. But they’ve been made possible by the communities’ resilience and ability to adapt to changing circumstances.
“Nearly every industry is struggling with how to respond to the pandemic," she said. "Humans want to gather, and that’s what the Partnership does. We design events for the community to gather, and give them a way to be in our community and celebrate and patronize the small businesses that make up that community.
“So it’s difficult. But our organization is run by residents and business owners in Worthington, so we just try to work together to try to find out what’s appropriate.”