What to Do When 'Ya Gotta Undo It'
Jul 30, 2020 11:25AM
By Gayle Morrow
On the afternoon of May 27, 2020, two astronauts were on a launch pad in Florida, strapped into a SpaceX rocket, ready to blast off to the international space station. Minutes before the final countdown, the mission was scrapped due to weather conditions. If you can imagine the work getting to that “...five, four, three, two, one, blast off” point, think about whether it’s any easier doing the whole process in reverse.
Likewise, cancelling an event that is in perpetual planning, one that typically draws in thousands of people and thousands of dollars, one that calls for coordination from individuals, municipalities, and businesses, is somewhat more complicated than a casual, “Oh, I guess we won’t have a festival/concert/tournament/race this year.”
Actually, “calling it off was the easy part,” says Julie VanNess, executive director of the Wellsboro Area Chamber of Commerce, of the decision to bow to COVID-19 and cancel what would have been the seventy-ninth Pennsylvania State Laurel Festival. It was everything that had to be done, and undone, after that decision was made that was the challenge.
Contracts had been signed, she says. Requests had gone out to all the bands that typically participate in the two-plus-hour parade that is the culmination of the week-long event. Schools had picked their Laurel queen candidates, and those young ladies had sent applications, photos, and made their arrangements to be in Wellsboro. Vendors had sent money to reserve their spaces on the Green for the juried arts and crafts show. Concerts were planned, races were organized, retailers were ready.
“We had to write letters, mail letters—everybody had to get a letter,” Julie says. “There were hundreds of [refund] checks to write. We actually had a couple of vendors already cancelled.
“There are lots of pieces to the Laurel Festival puzzle,” she continues, “and it has to come apart the same way it goes together.”
For more about what the chamber has in store for the rest of the year, visit wellsboropa.com or call (570) 724-1926.
“We do work on them year-round,” concurs Coleen Fabrizi, executive director for Corning’s Gaffer District, of the large-scale happenings based in and around Market Street. She describes the decision to cancel GlassFest, characterized as the downtown’s flagship event, as “overwhelmingly sad.”
“We realized doing an in-person event was simply not going to happen,” she says. “The first thing I did was reach out to our sponsors and tell them that, as difficult as it is, we can’t imagine a way to do this safely.”
Then, she says, they notified the vendors. And then, the wheels started turning.
Initially there were thoughts of simply postponing GlassFest, or holding some sort of “abbreviated version” later in the summer, but with the uncertainty of how and when the virus might spread, that consideration was nixed.
However, Coleen says she and her team are “not really discouraged by ‘can’t’.” What about a virtual event? She laughs as she remembers that when she told the sponsors she and her team were considering a virtual GlassFest, the response was “Yeah, of course you are.” And of course they did. The virtual event had “a different flavor, but it was still GlassFest.”
“It’s critical to do everything you possibly can to keep businesses in front of the consumers’ minds,” she says. “The bottom line is to help our small, independently owned businesses do the best they can during the ‘high season.’”
To find out more about exploring Corning, visit gafferdistrict.com or call (607) 937-6292.
That impact on small, local businesses was also a factor on Jim Baney’s mind when he and other members of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon Snowmobile Club decided to cancel the thirtieth annual Upper Pine Creek Trout Tournament.
“We had a discussion,” Jim says. “Last year we had over 500 participants, and everyone came into the clubhouse. With COVID, we couldn’t do that.” They considered doing registration and socialization outside, but decided that wouldn’t be the best option, either.
“It was tough for us, because it brings so much revenue into our area,” he continues. “People were calling months before the tournament to check on dates [it’s always the weekend after Mother’s Day] so they could make room reservations. One restaurant owner told us ‘your tournament brings more revenue into our restaurant than fall foliage.’”
The fish the club buys for stocking come from Rainbow Paradise, near Coudersport, and that order had to be cancelled. Not only does the business lose the sale price, “they will have to feed the fish for another year.”
With tournament fees, the club is able to give three college scholarships to local high school seniors, but, with no tournament and schools closed, there was not way to make that happen. Other local charities that typically benefit from tournament proceeds will not, and plans for two special thirty-year-anniversary drawings of $1,000 each were also scrapped.
“We talked about doing it in September, but look at how low Pine Creek is—we can’t do that.” Jim muses.
But are they planning for next year?
“Absolutely,” says Jim.
You can find out more at pagrandcanyonsnowmobileclub.com or call (570) 724-2888.
However, if you’re looking for a glimmer of a silver lining in all of this, you might find it with an online listen to Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, performed live (well, sort of ) by artists who would have, ordinarily, been together and participating in the Endless Mountain Music Festival.
Cynthia Long, EMMF executive director, explains that once the organization’s board agreed that cancelling the 2020 event “was what was needed,” there remained the question of “how to remain relevant in a sheltered world,” especially when everyone—composers, musicians, and audience—was sheltered apart from one another. A feature of this year’s EMMF—the fifteenth anniversary—was a showcase for emerging Hollywood composers and the music inspired by films. Eight composers had been selected and assigned a decade for which to create an original work. The plan then became to save the compositions and the performances for 2021, but what about that notion of remaining relevant?
Enter Copland’s familiar and uplifting Fanfare, recorded individually, then mixed and combined against a backdrop of local first responder faces and places—all designed to honor those individuals. That’s the start of the virtual EMMF, one that includes trailers and teasers from the eight composers, and performances from the likes of Peggy Dettwiler and the Mansfield University Chorus, pianist Bram Wijnands, violinist Siwoo Kim, and the “Celtic electric” group Fire in the Glen.
“We started July 1, and it will go until December 31,” Cindy says. “We’ve had over 1,000 hits so far.”
The plan, of course, is for all this to happen live next year. Cindy says the board is “looking ahead,” and considering outside venue options if that need arises. Until then, take your musical journey at endlessmountain.net.