GL events continue to fall victim to COVID-19

The Community Street Bash is one event that is in jeopardy of joining a long list of other events in Green Lake County to be canceled or moved virtually due to COVID-19. As of right now, Harvest Fest still is on as scheduled. submitted photo 

by Joe Schulz

Green Lake’s list of community events continues to shrink as the Green Lake Half Marathon, Town Square’s Concert on the Pond as well as July and August Bingo at Town Square have all been canceled. 

The announcements came at a meeting Wednesday, July 15 at which event organizers brainstormed best practices for continuing to host events amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Beyond announcing cancellations, much of the meeting was used to discuss the logistics of hosting Harvest Fest and the Community Street Bash. 

While Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Lisa Beck announced Harvest Fest is still on, the future of this year’s Community Street Bash is much more uncertain.

The Community Street Bash is a free event that features live music, adult beverages and a variety of food vendors with proceeds going to local non-profits.

Mike Havey, who puts on the street bash each year, would like to host the event, but he isn’t sure that it will be safe, even if social distancing is encouraged. 

“You can say we’re social distancing, but you know what’s going to happen when the event actually takes place,” Havey said. “I’d hate to see this event go to the wayside, but I don’t know what to do.” 

Green Lake County Health Officer Kathy Munsey attended the meeting and has attended the Community Street Bash in the past. She noted it’s unlikely that people will practice social distancing at the event.

Munsey noted the recommendation for events is to keep attendance below 50 people. The Community Street Bash would likely far exceed 50 people as the event had over 1,000 people in attendance last year, 800 the year before and 600 in its inaugural year. 

“If you want to be responsible, I would say the best thing is probably finding a way to raise funds virtually and protect the public,” Munsey said. “It is a wonderful community event that I don’t want to see go by the wayside either, but a lot of events have had to for this year.” 

In terms of ways to make the event safer, she didn’t have many recommendations, as similar events have been canceled across the country. 

“When I look at so many of the other events that have had to cancel, especially music festivals, they have canceled because they can’t figure out a way to do it,” Munsey said. “I’ve not seen a venue that has really done it safely.”

As of July 15, she noted Green Lake County had seven active COVID-19 cases, and was monitoring 40 people who were in close contact with someone who was confirmed to have the virus. 

Of those 40 people, Munsey added “almost all of those people have been to an event,” whether a community event or family gathering.

“There’s all these things that people go to,” Munsey said. “When you call them and ask, ‘Did you know you were in contact with the COVID case?’ They say, ‘I can’t believe it. I thought I was going to be safe. It was all family and friends and people I know.’”

Additionally, the health department will not know if Independence Day events in Green Lake County will affect their caseload until two weeks after the event.

Due to Green Lake being a tourist destination, Munsey noted contact tracing cases from Independence Day could prove difficult because someone may get tested and diagnosed in Illinois, meaning the Green Lake County Health Department may not be notified. 

“Don’t get a false sense of security from saying, ‘We only have this many cases,’” Munsey said. “It could be higher; it could be much higher.”

After the meeting, Havey was leaning towards canceling the street bash, but plans to continue talking to the health department before making a final decision. 

In terms of Harvest Fest, Munsey was more optimistic that the event could be held safely because it will encompass the entire downtown rather than one venue. 

However, she did express concerns about what the virus’ spread could look like by September.

“Our kids will be back to school,” Munsey said. “Then what’s going to happen? Will we have more cases?”

Beck is in the early stages of planning Harvest Fest. She plans to continue working with the health department, local officials, businesses and other stakeholders to ensure Harvest Fest can continue safely.